“Married life ain’t what they said it was supposed to be. I mean just cause I married her doesn’t mean I married her momma.” an old drunk sputtered sprinkling spittle all over the bar. My eyes were hazy from cigarette smoke and self inflicted drunkenness as I ordered another drink with all the class of a drunken sailor at a Thai whorehouse. I stood for a moment gulping back a shot of whiskey when just as that old soddy bastard was eying me for quick conversation a voice came over the p.a. system “Josh come on up here. Josh is doing what the hell happened to me by Adam Sandler.” The bright red light illuminated the young man as he swaggered, the microphone in his right hand, and a cup of Keystone light in his left. A smile faintly brimmed from his face as he belted out a karaoke version of “what the hell happened to me.” Laughter boomed throughout the long room nearly drowning out the music. Watching him you’d never guess he had 15 days until judgment, only 360 more hours to walk among the living.
Josh Stenson’s blue eyes twinkle no more, his voice forever silenced by his own hand. A tragic legacy of a life wasted. Josh is a victim of a heart full of regret, loneliness, and self neglect. His mind wondered into a dark place and was swallowed whole in a pool of self pity. For his family, friends, and loved ones only fragmented memories of him remain.
Questions abound as to why a 21 year old man with everything to live for would condemn himself to the halls of eternity. Perhaps the bane of his existence was simply existing. A severe case of twenty something anxiety. The pressure to succeed colliding with an absence of comprehension as to what at.
With no desire to become named for his chosen profession he instead chose to be known as simply ‘dead.’ In some diluted state of mind months earlier his final decision was made. He would be no spontaneous unplanned death.
Within weeks of his decision he was holding the first of his new credit cards. A vile plan was spreading like cancer within his solitary mind. ‘Las Vegas’, the city built on loneliness and vice would decide his fate. He would gamble at God’s feet with his very life. If he had won, life. If lose death. He amassed as many credit cards as possible. The personal belongings he couldn’t sell he gave away.
He had never seemed happier than in those final days, ” I’m getting nervous. I’m so exited!” He would say. For ten days in Vegas he lived like a rich man, charging over twenty thousand dollars up at casinos, hotels, bars, and brothels.
Only vaguely now can I recollect the last words I ever heard him utter. ” How’s the car doing? Does your daughter like the teddy bear? I’m going to take a bath, get a nap, watch the game tonight and retire. Hey, I’m still smiling!” On that night he did just that. He was found with a bottle of Absolute in his left hand and a 9mm Ruger in the other. Torn paper scraps on the floor spelled out ‘I must die’. A page from the bible was ripped out ‘PSALM;23. At his home in Dallas his family found an alternate note as well as some etching in pen ink across a canvass painting of the ocean, ‘I went home’ As finished as it sounds, it wasn’t the end of Josh’s quest. After being cremated he was placed in an urn to await his final resting place. His mother thought it was only right to bury his ashes next to his father in California. His father had been dead less than a year, also by his own hand. Sadly Josh was refused interment as his father was buried at the V.A. Cemetery. So they boxed him up and shipped him home to Texas. Unfortunately the U.S. Postal Service lost his remains. It would be another two weeks before he would come home.
We’ve lost a brilliant life but what a beautiful soul dances among the stars tonight. Someday I’m sure we’ll meet again. Until then, at least I know he’s still smiling.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.