“A person that loses a partner is called a widow. A child who loses a parent is called an orphan. But there is no word to describe a parent that loses a child, because the loss is like no other.”
My good friend, and fellow TBRC member, Chris Buntenbah and his wife, Monica Rawlins, lost their 17-year old son Riley yesterday. Riley was struck by a car that was in the process of running through a red light while traveling at approximately 70 miles per hour. Miraculously, Riley survived the initial impact and fought bravely for his life for several hours before passing away. While it is, no doubt, small comfort, this did give Chris and Monica a chance to get to the hospital and be with him when he died.
I only had the privilege of being around Riley once and it was several years ago. The TBRC held a training camp for probationary members at Caddo Lake in northeast Texas. Monica was heading up the training camp and Riley accompanied her. I was very impressed with the young man at that time. He was intelligent, well mannered, and extremely polite and respectful. Despite the fact that it was very cold that weekend, he did not complain once that I ever heard. As a teacher/coach and the parent of a daughter his age, I greatly appreciated his positive attitude.
That Saturday night we decided, being so close to the Arkansas border, to visit the Fouke area. This is the home of the legendary Fouke monster of The Legend of Boggy Creek fame. The team split up into several groups and spread out up and down a road running through the swampland of Miller County in the general area where the sightings that inspired the movie took place years before and where sightings continue to the present day. Riley was assigned to my team and we spent several hours together that night. Again, it was very cold and absolutely nothing was seen or heard yet not one complaint was uttered by Riley; something I cannot say about some of the adults present that night. I came away impressed by the young man. I can’t remember if I voiced this to Monica before the weekend ended or not. I hope I did.
Riley was only months shy of joining the Marine Corps when he died. He wanted to serve his country. What could speak better of a young man than this?
I cannot imagine the pain my friends must be experiencing right now. My prayer is that the Lord will give them comfort and that they would turn to him rather than away from him at this time. While this tragedy will never make sense to us while we are on this earth, I hope that as time passes Chris and Monica can find peace.
The TBRC has set up a memorial fund for Riley. If any of you are so inclined you can go to the TBRC’s donation page and contribute. Any and all donations received by the group through this coming Thursday will be given to the family to help them offset the unexpected expenses something like this brings. Click here to donate. If you cannot donate please include the family in your thoughts and prayers.
I will close this post with the quote below which was actually posted on Facebook by TBRC member Daryl Colyer last night or early this morning:
"If anything is to be learned from this great tragedy, it is that life is far too short. It's too short to go around being mean to people. Our time is borrowed. It is but a vapor. So, in our borrowed time, be kind to people. Help others any time you can. Don't hold grudges. Forgive. Be compassionate. Treat others as you want to be treated. Do what's right."
Rest in peace, Riley.