Luke Stashak was a close friend of my son Josh. He quickly became a friend of the family. He was the kind of young man you loved to have around with your own teens. However, we quickly found that we, 30 years his senior, loved him begin around us! Pizza night, movies and campfires, Luke was there.
At first, Luke was very shy, apprehensive and not sure how to engage with the Cannizzaro Clan. We were believers and follower of Jesus and Luke was at the “check out” stage. Plus, I can be a very playful man and can overwhelm my kids' friends in our home! I loved saying to Luke as he came through our front door “Luke!!! I am your father” in the tone of Darth Vader. Luke with a playful grin but a look of joyful exasperation exclaimed: “Mr. Cannizzaro if I had a dollar for every person that said that to me I’d be.....” Yup, Luke, you would be a millionaire.
In God’s time, for it is God who reveals, it is God who changes, it is God that makes things grow inside our soul, God came to Luke in the person of Jesus and Luke said “I am in. All in.” When Luke came to Christ it was very evident. So evident, his grades in school began to vastly improve and his personal confidence around adults increased! Our love for Luke was palpable. Luke was a mainstay in our home.
What you do not know about Luke, is that he had his share of challenges, as many of this emerging generation do in America today. Unlike any other generation in American history, I believe this one will leave its legacy and mark for the kingdom of God, but no doubt they are also suffering inside their soul. Numerous research has been done and it is fair to conclude, that this millennial generation is the most abandoned, aborted, anxiety-riddled and depressed generation we've ever had. Luke was no exception from this cauldron.
Luke was an amazing photographer, and writer. He loved life and loved his friends. But Luke was suffering inside. Much of the deeper sufferings were unbeknownst to us. We saw signs but did not read them well. His writings reveal something else inside him. The wonder of life and the trauma of life. In time, it was too hard for Luke. The suffering outweighed his motivation for life on this side. He wanted to be with God. On a Friday night in the Spring of 2018, Luke ended his life. Needless to say, we were beyond devastated.
To honor the remembrance of Luke in our family and in our work with the emerging generation with SoulQuest Ministries International, we named our main office “The Soul Shak” in honor of Luke Stashak. One of Luke’s picture hangs in our office, hung at the dedication service of The Shak, by his dear mom Suzanne, and her fiance, Tim.
Our SoulQuest board decided to open a benevolence fund in honor and remembrance of Luke and other young people who suffer from depression, anxiety and the ever-present villain of suicide. We want to make professional counseling available to any who desires it and cannot afford professional counseling and who suffer in this area. If you would like to give, click here.