Get High on Life

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 21, 1998

By Harold Keller / L’Observateur / October 19, 1998

The reality and finality of physical death reached close to home this past week. My wife’s oldest sister, Martha, died at the age of 81. She lived along life and, even though her death was not unexpected, death is never welcomed. Next to her two children, my wife will miss her as much asanyone. They spoke almost daily on the phone.The other death that really got my attention as to how short life is was the death of a young man, age 42, named Justin. I met Justin only fourweeks ago at a treatment center and saw him every Saturday, including last Saturday as my wife and I visited.

My first meeting with Justin was pleasant and we hit it off pretty well.

He stood about 6-foot-3-inches, was the picture of health, and talked almost as much as me. The one thing that stuck out about him was his joy.The second week after I met Justin, he had gotten a group together to sing “Amazing Grace” and then led them into “This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going to Let It Shine.” As he and the group sang, they went around theroom of 60-plus men and hugged each one. My daughter, Ronny, hadaccompanied Jeanne and me that night and said after the meeting, “Daddy, it doesn’t get much better than this,” referring to the godly spirit that was present.

Well, last Saturday, as usual, I went to the treatment center, talked for more than an hour and, as I’ve done every Saturday for the past four-and- a-half years, allowed the clients of the center who will be leaving that week to address the group. This gives them a chance to share anythingthey want to and to say good-bye.

Justin was the last to speak. He spoke (almost preached) longer thananyone else. “I’ll never use drugs again,” he said. “I want to serve God.” Heclosed by singing a song.

After the meeting, he spoke to Jeanne and I and confided, as he did the week before, than he had no place to go. I smiled and said, “Jesus didn’thave a place, either.” He laughed and added, “That’s right! Jesus didn’thave a place to lay His head.” I told him not to worry because I wouldarrange to have him go to “Teen Challenge” in Lafayette on Wednesday. Ialso told him to call me Sunday night and that I would call his counselor Monday for his approval. I told him I loved him and left. That was Saturdayat 10:30 p.m.Sunday, at 8 a.m., another client from the treatment center called andsaid, “Mr. Keller, Justin died this morning at 6 a.m.” Shocked? Yes. Sad?Maybe. Regrets? Definitely. I wish I had gotten to know Justin better. Hiswords of Saturday night rang out as I put the phone down. “I’ll never usedrugs again. I want to serve God.”I know that God had a better plan for Justin. He found him a place to go andit is much better than “Teen Challenge.”

Harold Keller is a regular columnist for L’Observateur.

Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

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