The death of a young person always takes my breath away; there is nothing more unnatural than a child or teen losing his or her life…especially if it’s unexpected.  Last year, a 16-year-old at my son’s school died in a car accident; though I didn’t know him, I burst into tears at the news. I had this reaction because I know what every mother knows and tries to keep at bay: my child is not immune. His mother’s ache could one day be mine.

In addition to shock and grief when a young person dies, curiosity quickly comes into play in the community in which they lived. Precisely because it’s so unnatural to lose such a young person, one can’t help but just want answers and ask “why?

One loving aunt, knowing this was the response from her community to the death of her 19-year-old nephew Gunner Bundrick of Prescott Valley, Arizona, took to Facebook to explain how and why Gunner died on November 3rd of this year. In her now-viral post, with over 1 million (yep, 1 million) shares, Gunner’s aunt Brandi Bundrick Nishnick poured out her broken heart, explaining not only how Gunner died, but begging parents to do their very best to keep their own kids from the same tragic fate.

gunner bundrick
Gunner Bundrick, Courtesy Brandi Bundrick Nishnick via Facebook

First, Brandi thanks everyone for their concern for her family and acknowledges that she knows everyone is curious about Gunner’s death for the right reasons. She says,

“As most of you know, we lost my nephew, Gunner, on November 3rd. While I will say it was totally unexpected and shocking, I don’t know that anyone could ever be prepared for this kind of pain.

I have been wanting to send a message or write something so everyone can understand what happened- I know people are curious and mostly for the right reasons. I know most of you are truly concerned for me and my family. I appreciate that.”

Nishnick then goes on to say that while sharing the circumstances of Gunner’s death are painful, she knows that she must for three main reasons: to remind everyone what a great kid Gunner was, to clear up any misunderstandings or misconceptions, and because Gunner’s story could save another teen’s life.

Did you read that last line? This is where the mamas really need to start paying attention. Courageously, Brandi lays out the heart-wrenching details. I will give you her own words here, so nothing is misconstrued:

“Gunner went out with friends on Friday night.

They came back to my brothers house late and stayed up eating pizza and playing video games- like most 19 year old boys do.

At some point during the evening, Gunner, and his friend, took a pill stamped Percocet. The very popular and easily accessible pain killer.

Gunner has no history of drug use, has never been a “problem child”, was a star athlete, wonderful son and brother and was extremely loved in his community.

We don’t know why he decided to take “a pill” that night. The only thing we can assume is that the curiosity of knowing what the “high” is like came into play? Again, we can only assume.

His friend also took a pill.

Both boys died what we think was pretty immediately. Both went to sleep and never woke up. -That’s the most positive thing in Gunner’s whole story- that he felt no pain & didn’t suffer. (Although, positive is a generous way of putting it).

My sister in law, his mother, found both boys the next morning. She, and my nieces, tried to resuscitate to no avail. Both boys had been dead for hours and there was nothing they, or the paramedics could do.”

 

Oh my word, Mamas, did your heart just not completely crack in two? Scratch that, in a million pieces?? The reason this particular teen death was so shocking as well as tragic is that no one saw it coming. He was a good kid who made a bad choice—a single bad choice—and it’s the last one he ever had the chance to make.

Gunner’s aunt goes on to reiterate this point, and tell you why those pills killed Gunner and his friend. She does it in such a powerful way that again, I’ll give you her un-filtered words:

“The pills Gunner and his friend took were at the very least laced with fentanyl. We are still waiting on reports but there is a good chance it was more then 50% fentanyl. That’s enough poison to kill 10 adult males. According to the detective working on Gunner’s case, to draw comparison for perspective, 2 grains of table salt size of fentanyl will kill any adult.
 
Think about that. 
 
Gunner never had a chance.

I’m sharing Gunner’s story because Gunner had a whole life ahead of him. He had goals and aspirations. He wanted to be a dad. He wanted to continue to play football and baseball in college. He wanted to go hunting and fishing with this grandpa. Gunner wasn’t done.

One bad choice, one stupid minor mistake was all it took. 

Gunner never had a chance.

It’s very natural to be curious and want to “experiment” with things at Gunner’s age. Remember when we were in HS and kids considered experimenting with cigarettes?? It’s a different time now. Kids are experimenting with pills because they think they’re safe. They’ve seen them in their parents medicine cabinets from their moms car accident last year or from when their dad threw out his back. They seem harmless.

These aren’t the pills in your parents medicine cabinet. They are made in someone’s garage who is trying to make a buck…a buck at the expense of our children’s lives.

THERE CAN BE NO EXPERIMENTING. 

None.

It’s truly a matter of life or death.

You can’t see fentanyl. You can’t smell fentanyl.
 
Tell your kids Gunner’s story. Show them his picture. I can’t describe the amount of pain my brother, sister-in-law and Gunner’s sisters are going through- a pain that will NEVER end. A hole that will NEVER be filled. A life that will never be brought back. A beautiful life.
Gone forever.” 💔
 
 
Her words hit me hard, especially when she said “Show them his picture.” So,that is exactly what I did as soon as I read Brandi’s post. I called my 14-year-old over to my computer and had him read all about Gunner and his friend, and I told him, as Brandi said, “There can be no experimenting.” My son is young, and he is timid; a rule-follower to the core. But far be it from me to assume that he will never be faced with this same kind of choice, never be assured that something is “safe” that could ultimately kill him, never reach out, in a desperate moment, for something that might numb his pain.
 
Far be it from me to have “not my kid syndrome.” Because my sweet, obedient rule-follower is not immune to making one bad choice, and neither is yours.
 
My son read it, and when he was done, he said, “I get it, Mom.” And I believe that he did. But in Gunner’s memory, I’ll have a similar talk with him again, and again. Because sadly, Gunner and his friend weren’t the first, and won’t be the last to die this way— and these conversations with our kids about drugs cannot be a “one and done,” either.
 
Show them his picture, Mamas. It might just save your child’s life.

Jenny Rapson

Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.