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September 2016
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Joshua Bishop's Obituary

Hart's Mortuary and Crematory
Josh Bishop
 (Died March 31, 2016)

Josh Bishop, 41, was executed by the State of Georgia and died on March 31, 2016. His last words were ones of repentance and love.

Josh lived a Dickensian childhood in the modern era. He grew up under bridges in Milledgeville, Georgia, in group homes and foster care, often hungry or afraid. He loved the outdoors, though, and later—wholly without bitterness—described golden days of his childhood as ones where he could fish for food or fry up green tomatoes left out for trash by families who had more than they needed. Everyone who knew him as a boy recalls his sweetness, eagerness to help others, and his devotion to his mother.

Unlike the street urchins of the Dickens stories, however, Josh was never saved by a kindly, wealthy gentleman—or even by the State agencies charged with protecting abused children. Instead, he fell into drug and alcohol abuse and at age 19 made horrible mistakes that were not otherwise in his character. 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.

In the bleak and alienated world of Georgia’s Death Row, however, Josh found that he could be loved by others and by God, and he came to flourish there as an artist and as a man. He was embraced by the Shertenlieb family, who ministered to him, visited him, and taught him that no is one beyond the reach of forgiveness and redemption. He was baptized as a Catholic.

He taught himself to draw, and, having little else to offer, gave gifts of his art to his friends and family—and even other prisoners and guards. He began to read (“Anne Frank blowed my mind!”) and never tired of discussing the Old Masters, Sturgill Simpson songs, or the beauty of the natural world. He was accepted and cared for by others who came to write and visit him—Amy and Ryan Dunn, Gene and Kathi Gunter, Timothy Tew—and he blossomed in their love and friendship. He was a friend to them, too.

In his last years, working with a clinic at Mercer Law School, he taught close to fifty students lessons about justice that they could never learn in a classroom. He offered abject apologies to the families of his victims, and was comforted in the grace offered by a number of those he had hurt. His heart bled for children who lived without hope for a better life, and did what he could to encourage teenagers who struggled with bitterness or apathy. From his prison cell, Josh reached others with his kind and open heart. He bore others up. He made the world better.

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.

Josh is survived by his brother, Mike Bishop: his best fishing buddy, surrogate parent, and hero. His other beloved relatives include his niece, Sarah, and nephew, Tristan; their mother, Christy Lewis; and his cousins, Crystal Bishop Griffin and Adam Bishop. He is preceded in death by his mother, Carolyn Bishop.

A Mass will be celebrated at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Conyers, Georgia, at 10:30 am on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. A burial will follow at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. Centenary United Methodist Church in Macon, Georgia, will also host an ecumenical service in Josh’s honor on Sunday, April 17, 2016, at 2pm.

In lieu of flowers, we encourage donations to the Methodist Home for Children and Youth, 304 Pierce Avenue, Macon, Georgia 31204.

Register online at hartsmort.com.

Hart’s Mortuary Crematory has charge of arrangements.

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