If memory serves me right, one of my first encounters with Eryc Riddle, Esq. was at a men’s retreat back in 2005. I remember him talking to a group of guys in the main hall, musing about how Captain Planet was Ted Turner’s manipulative way to inculcate children’s minds with extremist environmental propaganda. I knew right then and there, this guy was something else. But for the record, I disagreed with his views on Captain Planet. I don’t think Ted Turner was ever balanced enough to mold the minds of the young.
On the outside, Eryc was what you saw… and yet you could never quite place him in a category. This was a man that drove a jacked up navy blue Silverado truck complete with Flow Masters. And if you didn’t hear the roar of his engine, then surely you have heard the booming music being pumped through his sound system. On the surface, one might say this was a country boy’s dream truck. But, if you looked and listened harder, nothing could be further from the truth.
Instead of hip hop or Kenny Chesney blaring through those speakers, you would hear the sound of hardcore music with lyrics that one would have to Google to understand. As Eryc would step out of the truck, you would see a young man wearing blue jeans (okay), a fitted shirt (Not out of the realm of country boy attire), a camo cap (so far so good), gauges… wait? Gauges?! Are those gauges?! And, if you got to know him, he was Straight Edge at the time.
So, Eryc drove a huge truck, had an awesome sound system that he used to play hardcore music through, loved to hunt, wore gauges in his ear and was a rabid Straight Edged Libertarian. You may have heard of the phrase, “breaking the mold” but this was clearly a case of “Not Otherwise Specified.” If you could judge this book by its cover, you would be dead wrong.
The heart of Eryc Riddle was one of Godly character, a zeal for Truth, a calm demeanor and welcoming nature. His tastes may have ran to the extremes, but Eryc had that gentle kind nature usually reserved for older, wiser men.
I was fortunate to disciple Eryc while I was an intern at the University of Georgia Wesley Foundation. Every week, he would pick up in that booming truck and we’d have discipleship at our usual watering hole; the ADD Drug Store. For those of you that don’t know, this is an old fashion hamburger diner in the middle of a drug store in the one and only 5 Points Athens, GA. Apparently that was common back in the day. We would sit down a the bar, order some very unhealthy hamburgers and Eryc would invite me into his life. I was privileged to speak and listen to him about God, school, relationships, Right-Wing politics or the latest animal he had strung up in his garage.
I remember one year we had a vegan on staff at the Wesley Foundation and Eryc was adamant about showing me the picture of the boar he had just killed… along with the killing arrow! He had brought this arrow inside the Wesley common room and it was still caked in dried blood. I was amazed, not only because this was the very arrow that brought down this magnificent beast, but I don’t think it’s legal to carry semi dangerous weapons like that on campus. And I had to get him out of the building because any minute the vegan and the hunter would meet and a potential “discussion” could break out.
I hadn’t spoken to Eryc in some years now, but every once and a while, I would think about that unique individual and I would begin miss him. So, when a friend called me today to inform that Eryc had died, a hot flash shot through me. I was dumbfounded. No, this cannot happen to Eryc. This cannot not happen to this family!
I waver back and forth between resting in God’s goodness and questioning God on how much can one family take. A couple of years back, Eryc and his family lost his younger brother. At the time, my heart broke for Eryc and his family. I cannot begin to understand stand the breath and life that is taken out of one’s sails at such an event.
Lord, I believe you but help my unbelief. I do not understand and maybe I never will. Lord, for now, I ask that you would comfort Eryc’s mother and father in ways they never thought possible. I ask that you comfort Eryc’s wife and surround her with love and support. I pray for the rest of Eryc’s family and friends that they would grieve and find peace.
Amongst the various thoughts and memories going through my mind, one keeps coming back to the forefront. I am in a room by myself and I speak to myself that I know Eryc has gone to be with God, but I pathetically ask him to stay with us. I want him to stay with your wife. I want him to stay with his mom and dad. I know this cannot happen, but it is a nice temporary reprieve from reality.
Between the moments of pain, loss and sadness, I want to thank you Eryc for allowing me to walk alongside you for just a little while. Lord I am thankful that I got to meet one of the most warm, gentle, wild and unique persons I have ever known. His uniqueness is a sign of your complexity. I will miss you Eryc. Be at peace.
Eryc, I will see you again. But not yet. Not yet.