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.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

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.

Dear Dad, I Pray for Our Healing

In: Faith, Grief, Grown Children
Back shot of woman on bench alone

You are on my mind today. But that’s not unusual. It’s crazy how after 13 years, it doesn’t feel that long since I last saw you. It’s also crazy that I spend far less time thinking about that final day and how awful it was and spend the majority of the time replaying the good memories from all the years before it. But even in the comfort of remembering, I know I made the right decision. Even now, 13 years later, the mix of happy times with the most confusing and painful moments leaves me grasping for answers I have...

Keep Reading

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Small dog with head hanging out car window, color photo

Our dog Carlos has slowed down considerably within the last few months. He’s always been outspoken and opinionated–a typical firstborn trait–and to hear him snoring most of the day and tolerating things he normally wouldn’t tolerate (i.e. being carried from place to place by my son, forklift-style) put me on notice that he’s in the fourth quarter. Carlos looks and acts like an Ewok from the Star Wars franchise. According to Wikipedia, Ewoks are clever, inquisitive, and inventive. Carlos checks all three boxes. As a puppy, we tried crate training, but it never took. It wasn’t for lack of trying....

Keep Reading

You’ve been Gone a Year, So Why Does It Feel Like Yesterday?

In: Grief, Loss
Old photo of mother hugging her young daughter, color photo

In February, you will have been gone a year. How is that right? It was just yesterday. I still remember the day we got the diagnosis. One I knew was coming but still prayed wasn’t true. I still remember promising you that everything was going to be okay, and knowing that it wasn’t. I still remember the first time I saw you and thought to myself, “The dementia is moving too fast.” It was just yesterday. I still feel your hand in mine as I sat next to you in the hospital bed. You were talking and humming along while...

Keep Reading

God Redeemed the Broken Parts of My Infertility Story

In: Faith, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Two young children walking on a path near a pond, color photo

It was a Wednesday morning when I sat around a table with a group of mamas I had just recently met. My youngest daughter slept her morning nap in a carrier across my chest. Those of us in the group who held floppy babies swayed back and forth. The others had children in childcare or enrolled in preschool down the road. We were there to chat, learn, grow, and laugh. We were all mamas. But we were not all the same. I didn’t know one of the mom’s names, but I knew I wanted to get to know her because she...

Keep Reading

Growing Slowly around the Grief of Losing Your Mom

In: Grief, Loss
Sad woman sitting on couch with folded arms

Everyone has heard about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Society often assumes the stages of grief happen in order, but those who encounter grief know that’s not true. Undergoing grief can feel like riding a rollercoaster blindfolded—disorienting and chaotic. There are numerous ups, downs, and twists you wouldn’t anticipate. Grief is like an ocean. When waves come crashing, it feels like you’re being swept away. Regardless of their size, waves are always rough. Despite everything, you also get pushed forward to the shore after every wave. Sometimes, you may feel like you are drowning...

Keep Reading

The Shattering Grief of Suicide

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Sad person sitting in darkened hallway, black and white image

Navigating through my second Christmas without my dad, the weight of grief seemed even heavier this year. In fact, everything felt and looked different to me. As I unwrapped the ornaments and cards he gave me over the years, a tidal wave of madness and sadness engulfed me. I know many feel sadness and grieve during these times, but let me just say . . . suicide is a different type of grief. My vibrant, happy, physically fit dad committed suicide on April 30th, 2022. There, I said it. In the aftermath, a myriad of emotions consumed me. One perplexing...

Keep Reading

Dear Dad, Maybe You’re the Bird

In: Grief, Loss
Young girl sitting on father's lap, older color photo

Maybe you’re the bird. The one I see outside my door. The one who flies so low it seems you’re somehow weighted down. Like you’re carrying more than just yourself. Like you’re carrying a message. Just for me. Maybe you’re the rain. The sound I hear that reminds me so much of home. Of you. Of driving in your car as a little girl when you looked over and asked my opinion about everything. When you made someone so small feel so very big. RELATED: Dad Left a Legacy in Fried Green Tomatoes Maybe you’re the butterfly. The one I...

Keep Reading

I Hope You Never Know What it’s Like to Forget Who You Are

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Woman staring at camera, black-and-white photo

I write best when I’m passionate. It’s always been my release. But lately, I’ve struggled to write. I’ve struggled to find purpose in my words. It’s all been twisted and choppy, not a bit poetic or beautiful. These feelings are what the struggles of loss, parenting, work, and marriage push against. It’s finding yourself over and over again and trying to make sense of the senseless. It leaves you questioning most things and leaves you feeling broken with no idea how to put yourself or others back together. I hope you never know. I hope you never know what it’s...

Keep Reading

I Don’t Know How to Live Without My Sister, But I Must

In: Grief
Sisters smiling in posed color photo

I’ve spent a year of my life living in a haze. Holding my breath, afraid to exhale. Focusing on staying in this frozen moment where there is no reality. I pressed the pause button. Pumped the brakes. I’ll stay right here and wait for my life, life as I knew it, life as I loved it, to come back around. Where there is no future to mourn, thinking about the way it should have been and no torturous past to remember, recalling the horror of that day. The special occasions that will come are now outlined in sadness. Wait, she’s...

Keep Reading

6 Ways to Be a Friend to Someone Grieving

In: Friendship, Grief, Loss
Friends hugging

Grief can truly be such a lonely experience after you lose a loved one. The loneliness isn’t necessarily because you don’t have anyone around you. It’s because only you had your relationship with the person who died, and it’s hard to find anyone to replace that. I have first-hand experience. My mom died recently and unexpectedly at the age of 62 and I at the age of 34, and it single-handedly has been one of the most painful experiences of my life. However, having support from family and friends will help you navigate this difficult time. Without it, the loneliness...

Keep Reading