‘I was scared to open the ambulance door. ‘I’m here, everything will be OK. We’re getting you help.’ A tear ran down my son’s face.’: Mom loses ‘gentle giant’ to ‘freak accident’ after gun falls from cabinet, ‘The investigator had never seen anything like it’

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“My husband Russell, my son Cody, and I bought 40 acres in the Fall of 2017.  The land we bought had completely grown up everywhere because there hadn’t been a homeplace on it in over 20 years, but Russell could vision what it could be. Russell and Cody spent the first year working so hard on clearing it. Cody cut a lot of wood and pruned all of the fruit trees. By the Fall of 2018, we were ready to get started on our cabin when we had a horrific loss in our family.

Courtesy of Melinda Baldridge

Russell’s oldest sister had been shot and killed by her estranged husband. This was a horrible shock to our family. After Thanksgiving, Russell and Cody began to get logs ready, but Winter was creeping in on us so we knew we could just do what we could until the Spring weather came. Cody had a seasonal job at the Skillet Restaurant at the State Parks. That’s where he found his passion for cooking. He had a job that he loved, he was working out, and taking good care of his health. He told me the day before his accident that he was in such a happy place. As a mother, I feel so blessed to have those memories of the day before his accident.

Courtesy of Melinda Baldridge

It was a Sunday and his dad was really sick so we went ahead and went to church. Cody was serving on the communion table that morning and I can still see him standing there to this day. After services we made our normal Walmart stop and when we got home, we pulled into our place and stopped at the top of the hill and had the best conversation. We even got out of the car and took pictures together. It was sweet because I was trying to get a picture of just him so he could update his profile picture on Facebook, but he wouldn’t let me. He said, ‘Mom, I’ll let you take one if you are in it with me.’ I told him he wouldn’t want his mom in his profile picture, but if you knew Cody, you would understand. That afternoon he changed his profile picture to our picture and I will never forget how special that made me feel.

Courtesy of Melinda Baldridge

The next morning it was December 17,2018, and our family will never forget that day. I remember everything about that day. I left out a little before 8:00 a.m. to go finish my Christmas shopping with some ladies, which was really unusual for me because Cody and his dad were going to Paragould for the day. I never missed a chance to go to Paragould because that is where our other children and grandchildren lived and I never missed an opportunity to see them. Something kept telling me that morning to just go ahead and go with the ladies. On my way to town that morning, I was coming up a large, windy hill that is called Dodd Mountain. I go up and down that hill every day and have probably done so hundreds of times. Right in the middle of the hill there is a lookout spot you can pull into and take pictures of the town and the hills. I drove about ½ mile past it that morning and for some reason turned around and went back to pull into the lookout spot. I took a picture of the clouds that were laying over the town about 8:03 a.m. I cannot explain what made me do that at that moment in time, I was already running late, but something just made me want to go back and take the picture.

Courtesy of Melinda Baldridge

So I went on and met the ladies. Just a few minutes later, probably about 8:20 a.m. we were coming back that direction on our way to Conway. I realized I had just missed a call from Russell. I tried to call him back, and I even tried to call Cody with both phones going straight to voicemail. That is not uncommon where we live because the service is so bad, but for some reason I just really had an uneasy feeling that I couldn’t explain. I even texted Cody at 8:21 and asked, ‘Are you ok?’ Then right at that moment, Russell called me and said, ‘Get home now, Cody has fallen and is bleeding. He is hurt bad.’

Cobi Murdock Photography

I was with my friend and she headed that way as fast as she could. Right before we got to our road, we saw the ambulance to the left and Russell standing outside. I remember getting out of the car and the wind could just about blow you away – it was so very cold, but all I could do was pray and plead for our son to be ok. I was so scared to open the ambulance door, but I did and told Cody I was there and everything would be ok, and we were getting him help. He had a tear run down his face, and I knew he knew at that moment I was there, but I could tell by looking at my son that something was wrong.

We had to wait for Air Vac to get there, and it seemed like that took a lifetime, but they came and took him to the hospital. We had to drive for over 2 hours to get there. That really felt like an eternity. I just needed to get to my son. When my husband first called, we thought Cody had fallen and gashed his head. We had moved in a camper on our land to live in until we had our cabin finished. That morning of the accident, Russell and Cody were taking the furnace to have it repaired, so Cody went in to get some zip ties for his dad to tie it down. Anyone who has lived out in the woods knows there are all kinds of little critters, so Russell and Cody had gotten some rat shot for the pistol. I could blame that on myself because you know how women are about mice. The pistol was put way up high in a corner cabinet and Cody knew it was there. He had always been around guns, he knew gun safety, and would carry his when we would go hunting. That morning he must have been trying to hurry and when he went to get the zip ties, he got things all tangled up and the gun fell and went off. It had shot into the right side of his sideburn. The investigator told us he had never seen anything like it in all his years of service. He said the only explanation he could give us was it was God’s plan. He said he had never heard of rat shot being fatal.

We just couldn’t believe it, it was such a horrific freak accident. My husband found him and had to pull him out on our deck and do CPR because he quit breathing on him. At this time we still thought it was a head injury. Once we made it to the hospital it was very upsetting because we had to wait a while before we could see Cody. They told us when a gun is involved that was just part of the process. I didn’t think I would ever get to see him. I can never explain the way I was feeling before I saw Cody, but all I can say is God does comfort those who mourn because he prepared me for what they were about to tell me. As devasting as it was to hear, ‘I’m sorry there is nothing we can do,’ at the same time I felt a peace I have never felt before.

Courtesy of Melinda Baldridge

You see, at age 12 Cody was baptized for the remission of his sins. He had always been a faithful Christian young man. At the age of only 21 he had done so many things to help other people that he kept secret. We had so many people reach out and tell us how much Cody had helped them, or just the example he was to them. Cody accomplished so many things in such a short life. He was a Christian, and I knew he was now at peace in paradise with our heavenly father. Cody also wanted to be an organ donor, so the week before Christmas he was able to save 4+ people. Our loss was a blessing for so many others, and that’s what Cody would have wanted.

Courtesy of Melinda Baldridge

Since Cody’s accident we have tried to make aware the dangers of the rat shot. We’ve had several people tell us they also had a gun loaded with it, not ever thinking it could be fatal. My wish is for Cody’s story to help others, and to keep his memory alive. More than likely if you ask anyone about our Cody, they are going to tell you he was a ‘Gentle Giant,’ that absolutely loved all of his nieces and nephews with all his heart. Anytime we had a family gathering, you always saw Cody with the kids just being a kid with them. He loved them and his family so much. Cody always put others before himself, and he will never be forgotten!”

Courtesy of Melinda Baldridge
Courtesy of Melinda Baldridge
Courtesy of Melinda Baldridge
Courtesy of Melinda Baldridge

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Melinda Baldridge. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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