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Attention Must Be Paid: The Obituary of a Man on Death Row


Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 04/17/16

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From The Miami Herald, the posthumous story of Joshua Daniel Bishop, executed last month for murder:

An obituary is an all-but-unheard-of rarity for any prisoner, much less one who’d faced lethal injection. But Bishop’s, an eight-paragraph recap of his life, was printed in the local section of last Sunday’s Telegraph – next to obits for an Army veteran who died at 81 and a Baptist church secretary who lived to 94. It was written by one of his lawyers, who as fate would have it had been a sixth-grade classmate of his at Tinsley Elementary School in Macon in the late 1980s. The obituary notes Bishop’s “Dickensian childhood.” It mentions how as a boy he scrounged for food, for green tomatoes to fry – ones that had been “left out for trash by families who had more than they needed.” The write-up also tells of Bishop’s drug use and drinking and the “horrible mistakes” they spawned: “His addiction, and what came of it, cost him his life, and he wanted youth growing up in similar circumstances to learn from his story.” It goes on to mention how he “grew up under bridges in Milledgeville” and how in prison he was baptized as a Catholic and learned “no one is beyond the reach of forgiveness.” It further notes how Bishop had become an accomplished artist and, perhaps most poignantly, it recalls his final moments: “In his last hours, Josh comforted his friends, prayed with us, reminded us to take care of one another, and sang ‘Amazing Grace.’ He hoped that his death would ‘take away from the pain and add to the peace’ of those he had hurt. His continued concern for the suffering of others while he faced the ultimate penalty showed that the evil the State wanted to stamp out was not there, and all that was lost was the potential of a redeemed soul to do good. If there is justice in heaven, if not on earth, he is painting with Rembrandt and humming along with Merle Haggard.” Attorney Sarah Gerwig-Moore, the obit’s author, said, “I wrote it while I was crying as a way to process my grief.”

Read it all. 

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…

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