Rather than simply telling Josh’s life in my own words, I will first let Josh tell his own story in an autobiography he wrote on October 10, 2007 as part of a ninth-grade English project. I will then expand on it and make additional notes to fill in the years that followed.
By Joshua Davis
“It began with my parents and one-year old Aubrey. They had been married for just a few years, and they wanted to go somewhere and do something. My dad was offered a job in Japan, so that is where they decided to go. I was born the next year in the spring. The days in March were stressful. There were complications with the pregnancy, and I was expected to not make it alive. Then, on Saturday, March 28, I came. Alive. Not severely disabled, as the doctors said I would be if I lived. Joshua Scott Davis, was the name given to me. It was suggested by my paternal grandmother: Joshua after the Old Testament prophet Joshua, Scott after my father’s middle name, and Davis, being the family name.
(Father’s Note: Shirley spent five months on bed rest.)
I grew up for the first 4 years in Machida, a region of Tokyo. Aubrey, Mom, and Dad, and myself lived in a small upstairs apartment. Though it wasn’t great, it was home sweet home. I have few memories of the place and time, and the memories I do have are precious to me. One I have about the place was occasionally doorbell ditching my mom while I was playing outside.
I vividly remember thinking about the V shape her wrinkles in her face formed as she gave me a frustrated look every time I did it, and she realized it was nobody important. I probably wasn’t listening to a single word she said, but I remember always being amused by the V between her eyebrows.
When I was three, I was put into a Yochien, (known here as kindergarten). It was a nice place, I guess, but I don’t even remember my class. I remember the playground. There was a plastic yellow slide with a tunnel underneath it, and I also remember watching them paint the lines on the field with a thingyma-push-it-majig for sports day. The only thing else I remember was that I had to join Aubrey’s first-grade class, and I was awe-stricken by her ability to cut curves with scissors, instead of straight like I was doing. We were cutting out some spiral decorations, and instead of cutting circles, no matter how hard I tried, it would always come out looking like an octagon.
My room was the upstairs bedroom. I shared it with Aubrey. One story I will never forget, was a day in December of 1997. It was late at night, and we were supposed to be asleep, but what were we doing? We were rocking in the bunk bed to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”. Aubrey was dancing on her top bunk and below, I was bouncing. “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tr- . . . BONK!” The supports to the bed cracked, and the top bunk fell on top of me! How I survived, I do not know.
I went to a Anglican-sponsored yochien (kindergarten) in Nagoya, Japan, and then started first grade at the public elementary school (Shoei Elementary School). It was quite an experience. For one, the swimming pool was on the roof of the school! Whenever we would go anywhere as a class, instead of lining up alphabetically (though they did it occasionally), we were lined up from shortest to tallest! Granted I was in the front of the line. Lunch was delivered to the classrooms, and afterwards, we would clean the school. First graders did little more than cleaning the classroom, but older students cleaned the bathrooms and halls. Afterwards, we would enjoy the story told by a sixth grader: the Haunted Third Floor Girls Bathroom.
(Father’s Note: Josh’s older sister, Aubrey, was in the third grade when Josh was in first.)
When we moved to the U.S., we first lived at my maternal grandparents’ home, then we moved into one of our own, and it’s the same place I live today. I started first grade in 2000 at Shelly Elementary. (Josh repeated some of kindergarten to help him get use to life back in the US.) That first year was a big point in my life–the first time going to elementary school in the U.S.
That October on U.E.A. break, I got my first taste of Utah, besides the same-old American Fork. My father took me down to Arches National Park in Southern Utah. Second and third grade rolled around, and that’s when I created Space Radio Theater, a protect with the goal to be an original live action short sci-fi drama series, which later turned out to be a single audio drama later adapted for Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab.
Fourth grade brought some major changes to my health. I had always shown symptoms of acid reflux disease, but not until then had it hit me full force. It started out as spontaneous chest pains, and then vomiting uncontrollably. After some unpleasant tests, including a barium swallow and a scope of my upper GI tract, they determined that the pain was my stomach acid eating my esophagus, and the vomiting was because the muscle that closes my throat didn’t develop properly. It wasn’t that simple, though, as they discovered when none of the medications helped the condition much.
It turned out that the reflux was causing acid to pour down my airway, causing me asthma. Then in turn, the asthma would causing coughing, agitating my stomach, and making the reflux worse. Eventually, my asthma got to the point that they were able to diagnose that I had it, and then once I was taking medications for the reflux and asthma. I am currently on medications for the reflux, and with that in control, I don’t have much of an issue with asthma.
Fourth grade was an adventure, though. There were good and bad times, but I’m going to talk about something nice. My dad is a popular speaker on technology usage in the classroom, so he goes on business trips occasionally, and for one particular trip to Baltimore, he decided to take me! What a great trip. Some of the presentations at the conference weren’t that exciting, but the places we went, the sights we saw, (and the computer labs) were great. We went to D.C. and got a V.I.P. tour of the capital building! After that, we spent the entire rest of the day at the Mall, but we only saw about 5 percent of it! Ah, yeah. Good times, good times.
Fifth grade was the dark ages of my life. It SUCKED! My family was going through hard times, and I was behind on all of my work. Besides school, there was some good times during that year. I was out of the new scouts, and that summer, I went to my first week long scout camp at Maple Dell.
(Father’s Note: Josh’s depression first became apparent in fourth grade, but it became serious in fifth).
The summer after sixth grade, my scout patrol went to Scofield Frontier Base, another scout camp on the edge of Scofield Reservoir. My troop friend, Matt Hardin, was one of the coolest staff at camp. He was kind to all of us, but especially me. I decided I wanted to be on staff, so I could be in the outdoors, and hang out with cool kids like Matt. I found an application and applied for the Summer of 2006, when I would be 14.
Seventh grade I had been dreaming about all summer. I was actually looking forward to my first day of junior high. When seventh grade day came, I was sick! Yes, the only day away from the massive eight and ninth graders so we could orient, I was in bed with a fever of 102 degrees.
That next summer, I was able to do what I was looking forward to doing all year. I was just old enough to be on Scofield staff as a CIT–a Counselor In Training. Last summer of 2007, I was officially staff of Scofield, working in Scout Craft, teaching my specially: orienteering (compass and map work) and wilderness survival.
What I am like Now
What am I like now? Well I’m not the tallest chap ever, and, well I think I might not be anorexic. I have brown hair, and green and brown eyes (Yes, I have TWO colors!). My personality changes like women change shoes, but generally, or often in-generally you can expect me to be any, some, all, most, or none of the following: friendly, grumpy, sleepy, alive, outgoing, ingoing, careful, careless, articulate, reserved, open, closed, wild, mellow, annoyed, active, depressed, hyper, and additional types not otherwise listed. (DISCLAIMER: This list is subject to change with out notice.)
I HATE with a passion mushrooms. I loathe them! Don’t put them in soup, don’t bake them, don’t sauté them, and don’t do anything with those fungi that grow on feet.
I’m not the biggest jock, and as hard as I try, I always fall short of everyone else with games like basketball or wrestling. But I do know something about computers. Yea, I’m a computer geek. Of course, don’t they make the most money these days?
I’ve set some high goals for myself throughout life: I knew I wanted to be a computer technician for Pixar since I was nine. I hope that, even if I don’t achieve every thing I have dreamed of, that I keep moving forward on the continuum of achievement. I hope, that no matter what happens, I can rebound and not be stuck in the pit of despair and failure. I hope that I can be honest, and strive to work with integrity. I might not ever be perfect, but as long as I am facing in the right direction, and taking one step at a time, and as long as I am never looking backward, which is toward failure, then I will be happy with myself.” (see figure 1.)
Life Sketch of Josh (written by father, Randall Davis)
I have written down some additional life activities and events that Josh enjoyed. I can’t articulate them the way Josh would, but I sure he would forgive me for that.
When Josh was three years old, he attended play group class for a couple of hours at a time two days a week at the kindergarten where his sister, Aubrey, was attending in Tokyo, Japan. The goal of the group was to help children get ready for kindergarten, which ran three years from ages three to six, Monday through Friday all day, and a half day on Saturday. Because he didn’t much speak Japanese in the beginning, it was a little hard trying to communicate his feelings and wants, but having his big sister around at the school to serve as interpreter really helped.
During the years we had our kids in school in Japan, we never really considered sending them to international schools where they would study in English with other international families. Rather, we wanted out kids to make friends with Japanese children in our neighborhood and to have the experience in learning the language and culture.
When we moved to Nagoya, Japan, we found a Japanese kindergarten not too far from the university where I worked, and every day (rain or shine) I took him on the back of my bike to school. Because he still didn’t speak much Japanese, being at school from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every day was a real transition for both Josh and the teachers. On about the second or third day, Josh kept saying to the teachers, “I want to go home, go home” because he was somewhat scared and frustrated with no one around him he knew. It was equally hard on the teachers because they didn’t know what he needed or wanted, and they thought he was saying, “Go Hon,” meaning, “Five books.” Over time, he made friends and had a good experience at the school.
After he finished kindergarten, he attended first grade at a local Japanese school until we moved back to Utah. Later on, Josh attended American Fork High School and especially enjoyed choir, physics, and his electronics class. In one of his writings, he listed one of his greatest accomplishments as the electronic alarm he created for his class. He had many electronic gadgets, specialized tool kits, and other gizmos, and he could figure out how to repair just about anything with a little experimentation.
Joshua completed his coursework and graduated from East Shore High School, and he was very appreciative of the help and support that the staff and teachers provided there.
Josh was also very fond of music and enthusiastically participated in church and school choirs. He had a beautiful tenor voice, and when we sang together, he would help me read the music because I wasn’t very well-versed in sight-reading notes. Josh sang in the Mormon Tabernacle at Temple Square in Salt Lake City for a special church and scouting program and appeared on the front cover of the newspaper, Church News (May 19, 2007). He also played the trumpet, the baritone, and the euphonium in the band in junior high school, and when he was younger, enjoyed playing the piano.
The first job Josh had was working on a farm starting when he was 14 years old. Then, as he mentioned in his autobiography, he worked as a camp counselor. When Josh was sixteen, he got a job at Pizza Hut, and he then later continued his fastfood working experience at Wendy’s, a job he loved. You could tell he enjoyed his work because he kept Wendy’s memorabilia around his room. A lot of the time, Josh would work the back register, helping customers coming through the drive thru. He often would purchase small candies before work and then hand them out to customers as a way of just trying to cheer up someone’s day. This was how Josh was in all he did.
One of the things that Josh enjoyed most was tinkering with electronics and computers, and he took great pride when his work had a positive influence or effect on those around him. As he mentioned in his autobiography, one of the most memorable experiences we had together was going to a language conference in Baltimore in 2003. I gave a number of presentations, and in one hands-on computer workshop, he helped me set up the computers for the session and helped attendees to complete different tasks. Not bad for a young man that just turned eleven.
In the following years, he helped me develop different projects on my language-learning Web sites, and he designed the graphics for my Web site, EZSlang.com. As always, he did these things to bring satisfaction to others.
Josh enjoyed doing so many interesting things, but most of all, his hobbies generally centered around helping and making others feel good. Josh had such a creative mind. To illustrate, our family has had a long tradition of trying to make Christmas fun and exciting. As part of this, some of us would create elaborate puzzles that would require the receiver to solve certain tasks in order to find their gifts. Diabolical would be a descriptor for some mental challenges which necessitated climbing into an igloo, retrieving items with encrypted GPS coordinates from ice under a snow drift, finding a hidden key at the bottom of a 25-gallon fish tank, and deciphering a message from the remnants of some binary code on a burned piece of paper.
Perhaps the most extensively designed was one in which Josh made his own, original concrete chunks with syrup, and packaged this with his own label into a can. It looked so real. The hint to the actual location of the gift was written subtly in Spanish on the side of the container (the image blown up and inserted in the picture below so you can visualize it). The hint tells his mother to take a “walk” into Josh’s bedroom, a somewhat play on words because the gift hidden under the covers on his bed was a cooking wok.
Josh also helped in family activities, including Easter egg hunts at his grandparents’ house.
In addition to his creative puzzles, singing, and electronic skills, he had great interest in anything related to Apple Computers and Pixar Studios. His greatest dream since he was in fourth grade was to someday work for Pixar as a graphic designer or computer technician.
In addition to all these activities, he really enjoyed photography, especially dealing with nature and animals.
The Ladybug Project
Perhaps one of Josh’s lasting legacies of mystery and intrigue was his ladybug project, something that had been going on for months, but I didn’t know about it until after he died. As I mentioned before, one of Josh’s life goals to bring daily joy into someone’s life, and this certainly has been one way to do it. Because Josh wanted this to be an ongoing surprise to all for months and perhaps years to come, I can only share a few details here out of respect to him and keep other aspects a secret.
Back in October 2011, Josh attended an educators’ convention in Utah with his Aunt Ranae, and he was fascinated by some little wooden ladybug stickers that were being given away at an exhibitor’s booth. When he came home, he placed the ladybug on the stone fireplace in the family room of his grandparents’ home (see picture below with sample ladybug). Unbeknownst to the rest of the family, he bought a large container of ladybugs not too long after the convention and hatched a plan to place them around the large family room.
Over the following months, he meticulously planned and placed a large number of them throughout the room, carefully documenting in a spreadsheet the details of each one (the list discovered two months after his death), and just sat back and enjoyed people finding them.
His grandmother was initially frustrated because these ladybugs just kept popping up, and no one claimed responsibility. Josh even made an elaborate fake cobweb out of thread with a ladybug or two caught in it. Grandma had a difficult enough time keeping the room clear of real ones, and having fake cobwebs appearing was just too much, so she took Josh’s down. Eventually, Grandma just gave up trying to halt the ladybug infestation and has left them up to help all of us remember Josh.
The ladybugs are literally hidden everywhere, including at the top of a 18-foot vaulted ceiling, and only one person (not me) has knowledge of how he managed to place them in very difficult places. When we have regular family get-togethers, we continue to search around the room to be the next person to discover a new ladybug. Based on my calculations and with a little inside knowledge of their placements, the lady bugs will continue to be discovered as time goes on.
Except for his mom and his Aunt Ranae, Josh never called attention to the fact he was masterminding this fantastic and delightful visual adventure for the family. He never told me about it, and he didn’t tell others because he didn’t want to draw attention to himself. It wasn’t about him, but about the joy others would experience.
About two weeks after the funeral, I discovered the remaining stash of ladybugs, a number of which were prepared and ready to be placed. Where he kept this collection of ladybugs will, well, remain a secret because the manner in which he hid them was quite “Joshesque” with his own flair of intrigue.
In honor of Josh, a number of family members had ladybugs painted on their toes for the funeral, and one of Josh’s cousins made ribbons with a ladybug to be worn on that occasion.
Joshua was also very generous in many ways towards his family, friends, and neighbors, be they of our religious faith or not. Throughout his life, Josh sought after truth and goodness no matter the source. He did not hesitate to attend church meetings of other faiths to learn about them and build relationships on common ground. He greatly respected his grandparents (my parents) for their fervent faith even though they belong to a different church.
For years, Josh was actively involved in service in our own church, and he often volunteered to visit the home-bound or elderly who could not attend church meetings, and he blessed and administer the sacrament (or known as communion in some faiths) to these members. Josh did this on many occasions, and he felt a great spirit in doing so.
What is often difficult for people to understand is how a wonderful young man could end his own life. “If he believed in God, then how could he commit suicide?”
Josh struggled for about ten years with mental illness, a disease of the brain that is just as real as any other physical ailment that can ravage the mind. He was hospitalized twelve times to deal with his illness, underwent years of out-patient treatment, and worked on the aspects of his life of which he had control. To maintain his privacy, we didn’t talk much about the depth to which he was suffering because he didn’t want people to know about, nor be defined by, his illness. Most people simply noticed that he was a very likeable person.
As human beings, we really know so little about the human spirit and the intents/desires of others, and thus, we are in no position to judge. I know that even though life is often filled with loss and grief, we can turn sadness and sorrow into joy as we serve and love others.
Joshua taught and continues to teach us so many things through his example and service; our lives have been enriched abundantly because of who he is. It is now incumbent upon us to do the same.