Nathan Richard Riffe had always been a gleaming, smart and fun little boy, always playing outside, in the creeks and woods. He loved going to church and having fun with his little brother Daniel and big sister Shaylyn. The summers spent with vacations at Myrtle Beach, Florida and Tennessee. He enjoyed Bible school every summer at a local church he grew up in. One day when he was 7 years old, he came running in the house screaming, “mom I am gonna be a preacher man!” I said really? He said, “yes the good Lord above just told me this.” Several months later while at church (walnut Hill church of God ) he was praying and all of a sudden he fell over in the floor and cried and laughed at the same time raising his hands to the heavens and praising God with all his might. The minister told me he was a special child.
He loved Wurtland Elementary where he was very good friends with Kyle Cochran, Austin Blevins, Emily Munn, Brooke Johnson, and Kymbria Williams, Kyle Yates and many more. He loved spending time with Kyle Yates aunts house riding his dirt bike we got him for his birthday. When he was 9 my husband and I separated, and we moved to Ashland where he met new classmates and made friends. Two of them was Doug Mollett and Kasey Clark. He started playing baseball more became very good at it. My husband and I was still friends but had grown apart due to his work. He was a boilermaker and was gone a lot. We stayed separated for several months and I finally came back to Greenup to reconcile with my husband of 9 years. So, by the time he was 11 he was playing baseball and enjoying being a kid. He started to attempt to play the guitar. He loved video games and paintball, Still attending church with me every Sunday. By the age of 12 he had his first girlfriend and was very well liked by his classmates and was now on the academic team. He had always made straight A’s. He had many friends and went all vacation with Austin Blevins and his family Glenda and Mike Blevins, very good people whom he loved dearly. He became close friends with Reese Dillon, Ian Cremeans, and many others. He met a good friend Abbie Wright and his first girlfriend Angel Logan.
When he was 13 years old he tried out for the Greenup County Baseball team and did not make the cut. He was devastated. He had worked so hard as a freshman in high school he was upset. As a parent I was upset too but just encouraged him to do better. So, he started playing for the team on Addington field and stuck with his old coaches he had had for years, Steve Kibbey and Duane Archey. He loved them and appreciated all they had taught him. By the age of 14 he started wanting to go to little parties and hang out with other kids. I allowed it because he was a good kid and seemed happy. He was still making exceptionally good grades.
My marriage had fallen to the waste side and I had met someone else and became serious. We moved to Grayson Ky and Nathan was excited to get away from Greenup county for a while. He came there and met many friends such as Cole Carter, Austin Floyd, and many others. He also met a girl named Skyler Hicks. He came home from school one day and showed me her picture. He said , “mom I love this girl, she looks 21 & I’m goin to marry her one day.” I smiled and told him she was very pretty. He went to prom that year and 4 other proms as well with Skyler Hicks. He had fallen in love with her. She was so good for him and he was on top of the world. He had been dabbling with Alcohol and maybe weed at this point. He was a junior in high school. My mother, his grandmother and him were very close. She had COPD and was very ill. She had a turn for the worse and passed away suddenly. This was the worst thing that had ever happened in our family. I was a mess and my kids were too. Nathan did not cope well. He became severely depressed. My relationship with my fiancé had grown to a marriage and we decided to buy a house in Russell Ky and downsize. Nathan was so mad. He didn’t want to move. He had found the love of his life and made a whole new set of friends even though his Greenup friends came to Grayson a lot to hang out with him. We moved and we decided he could drive back and forth to east Carter which is a 30 minute drive. It became very difficult and very hard to get him up for school. He asked me if he could stay in the Grayson house some so he it was closer and easier for him. On my better judgement I said yes.
At this point I had never had any problems out of Nathan. He was very intelligent and was determined to get a fixer upper car for his first car and turn it into something he wanted. He bought a car for less than 1000$ and put in a new motor within 3 days. He had worked side by side with my father for many years in the garage watching his papaw turn junk cars into diamonds. He loved his papaw so much. He was very naturally skilled and could do anything with his hands. He would work on people’s iPhones and repair them for extra cash. He was still attending church with me but not as much as before. I noticed him wanting to party more and he was drinking more. I asked him about it and told him that he was heading down the wrong road and he would just tell me that it was just beer and him and his buddies would just drink here and there for something to do. He told me it was not a big deal. As a mother whose teenage years was much wilder than his I didn’t think too much about it. I didn’t want him to, but I thought my mother didn’t want me to either when I was in high school, but I would sneak and do it, so it is all good (at least he wasn’t sneaking) right? So he graduated with highest honors, still dating the love of his life. He would do some odd jobs for his aunt Roxanne and his father Reese here and there and make extra money. I was excited for him and was anxiously waiting on where he decided that he was going to go to college. He gave me the news shortly after graduating and us moving back to Grayson in our forever and beautiful log home with a garage apartment, that he was not going to attend college but follow in his father’s footsteps to become a boilermaker. Not long he joined the union and signed the books.
This is where things got worse. He had his own apartment over the garage and was 18. He had not been going to church much with me at all, maybe on Easter or Mother’s Day and that was it. I had started going to a new church in Grayson call New Hope Church if God of Prophecy. I loved the people and the pastor. It was so good to find a church closer to my home and feel so spiritually accepted. I had a new group of sister and brothers in Christ. I had requested prayer for my children many times especially Nathan. My son Daniel was in his senior year at East Carter and was doing well. Then Nathans behavior started to change. He was drinking way more and smoking marijuana. I asked him and told him he needed to quit. I prayed with him and over him. He left for Alabama to work as a boilermaker . I was so worried and nervous, but I knew he was Turning into a man and I had to trust that he would do ok and make good decisions. While in Alabama he tried his first shot of heroin. He had gotten into an argument with Skyler and they had broken up. He was depressed and partying trying to get his mind off of things. A fellow boilermaker by the name of Derik convinced him that this would make him feel good and ease the pain. After weeks of being separated from Skyler they started talking again and made up and everything was great, I thought! I noticed he had been working but didn’t have much money. He started asking me and his dad for extra money and was partying quite a bit. He had a bad wreck and had to have him health netted. He totaled his car but was alive and he got to come home and heal. He had several lacerations of the face and his friend Cole had some bruises. He had been drinking whiskey and decided to test drive his car he had been working on until 3 in the morning. It was a bad decision again.
As time went by I had a friend of mine tells me she thought he was using drugs. I was getting so worried. Finally one night she had went to a house in town and got him and put him in her car and brought him home. He was furious at me. He threatened me and acted insane. He was not my Nathan. He was possessed I thought. He was acting bazaar and had all of these anger issues. It was a long night of calling the police for me and my sons protection. Never had Nathan acted so strange. I called his dad and he tried talking with him. Nathan apologized and was truly embarrassed about his behavior. I forgave him. A few days later I was doing laundry. I picked up his pants and I always try to clean out pockets before putting in the washer. I reached in his pants pocket and found 2 syringes! I ran out to the living room and fell to my knees begging him to tell me what he was doing. I screamed no!!! Please don’t tell me this!!! He told me that he found them in his car after giving a stranger a ride to Huntington. He told me he forgot to dispose of them properly. At first I believed him then I started looking back. I asked his friend Cole if he thought he was using drug intravenously or any other way. He told no way. He told me that Nathan would never do anything like that. I went to his father and showed him what I had found. Several days later I found more in his pocket. I went to his dad and asked him to come to my house with me and let’s do an intervention. We woke Nathan up and asked him about the syringes I had found again. Of course, he denied they were his. We both did not believe him this time. We made him get dressed and off to the hospital we went. I wanted him drug tested. We get there and Nathan jumps out of the truck and runs. We got him to quit running after his father and I ran several blocks to try to keep up with him. He knew and we knew we had a serious problem on our hands. He begged us. He told us he could detox himself. He asked us for one chance. The hospital said they could not treat him. We took him home and for 12 days we set by him and took turns being by his side continuously, not being by himself, not even for one minute. I sat for days and massaged his legs and watched him suffer through heroin withdrawals. It was torture. It was pure hell watching the child you loved and prayed over cry himself to sleep and toss and turn and scream with severe leg pain and diarrhea. He was dope sick.
Time had went by and we thought the detox was over and he can get on with his life. He told us he did not want any part of heroin or using drugs ever again. We had discussed rehab, but he convinced his father and I his was doing great. He started drinking even more heavily. He had been pulled over many times by now and now had lost his license. His girlfriend Skyler was worried to death. We constantly texted each other checking on Nathan, always asking each other how he was doing. Skyler was in her second year at Alice Lloyd college. She is going to be a teacher. She stood by him and loved him. She didn’t approve of what he had been doing but she loved him. She had already dealt with a drug situation and problem with someone else very dear to her so this was not a new thing to her. She was devastated and hurt but she knew she must continue to love and support Nathan. He loved my husband Travis and had confided in him many times and Travis had tried to talk to him and convince him he needed to get better. On September of 2017 while asleep I woke up by Cole screaming my name. I set up in bed and seen Nathan walking in the house looking like a zombie and he was dead. He was making a humming moaning sound and his eyes were fixed. I screamed, “Cole please tell me what he has taken!” He said, “I think he used heroin.” A few seconds later my son collapsed on my bed. I woke his brother Daniel up and my mother in law. They started using emergency techniques and CPR. I called 911. Finally, the EMS comes and rushes him to KDMC. He had actually died and they brought him back. He was in ICU for 4 days. His lungs, kidneys, and his heart even shut down. He had had a heart attack at the age of 19! His friends, his girlfriend, his family were standing by his bed crying and weeping. We were asking the Lord to heal him and praising God for this miracle.
He came home, and we started looking for rehabs. He finally agreed to go to a rehab. I knew I would miss him but so happy he finally decided to do this for himself. His insurance was in affect and he could go. He went to Beachway therapy in Boynton beach Florida. He was there 30 days and sounded like a totally different person. I came to Florida with my husband with his work and they allowed me to visit with him. It was awesome. We took a walk and talked a lot. We had dinner and laughed. He had learned to play the guitar in a very short time and his hairstyle was different. He went from the Justin Bieber look to Robert Redford. I was shocked how a month could help someone. He had gained weight and muscle tone. His skin was tanned and gleaming. He was healthy again. He stayed another 15 days and then came home. The counselors there told me he needed to stay longer and begged Nathan to stay. He was convinced he was in recovery and he could do it on his own.
After he was home one week he started drinking and using again. Skyler, Travis and I tried to convince him to go back. He kept lying to us telling us he was not using. I got him and Skyler and my other son Daniel and his girlfriend Maddie along with my step daughter Adyson to come to Florida with me where my husbands was working. We had a blast. He was sober again. He did great for the first few days. He was nervous. He was antsy. He would play the guitar for hours. He found a few People at the campsite we were staying at and he began drinking again. He found a waiter at the place he was eating one evening to sell him some marijuana. This is ridiculous I thought. We come home and he decides to go to church with me. It was a good day. I could feel that the Lord had dealt with him. Finally he was on track. He was doing great. I had the opportunity to go to Puerto Rico with my husband on a job. I asked Nathan if he was ok. He said, “I am doing awesome.” “You go and have fun.” “You need to be with your husband”.
So I left and was gone for about a month. It was nice but I missed my kids. I texted him and face timed him. He seemed great. He sent me pics of where he had deep cleaned the kitchen even the refrigerator. I made fun and laughed and told him he must be really bored lol. He was ready to go back to work. I came home and he started working. He still didn’t have his license back so every day I would take him to town to meet his coworkers to catch a ride to Haver hill in Franklin furnace Ohio. Then every morning go get him around 5:30 am. It was so good. We talked every day. He had to listen to what I was saying. He was locked up in moving vehicle with me lol. He told me stories about his job and I would tell him stories about his dad and I or things about what had happened that night. It was awesome. He was my best friend. He had moved back in the house with me. He was sleeping in his brother’s bed downstairs. He didn’t want to be in the apartment anymore by himself. He said he didn’t want to be alone over there. I was happy. I could keep my eye on him and make sure he was safe. He would get home and play his guitar for me and then get up around 3 pm and start playing it again before work. He was learning several new songs. He was sober and doing great. I was so proud. He had money in the bank and had a plan with his life. He was looking forward to start working on his boat and truck. He would be getting his license back in a few months and he was thinking about getting Skyler an engagement ring. He said,” I’m gonna ask her to marry me on our 5 year anniversary of dating!” He said, “after what I have put her through she will probably say no but I’m gonna tell her it will be a year or two engagement. She needs to finish school mom”. I agreed. We had talked about him getting married and having beautiful children. He was finally starting to dream again.
Shaylyn my daughter and I had been wanting to take a mini vacation with just the two of us since she never got to go with us on vacations because of her job. She finally had quit her job of 3 years and I said why don’t we go see my aunt Connie in Florida. She was so excited!!! It was cold in Ky and nasty. The sunshine seemed to be dream to us and way to get a break from life. So after seeing how well Nathan was doing, and Daniel was doing in school we decided to go for a week. Travis was in New Jersey working. He had just left days before and giving Nathan a huge hug and saying their goodbyes. Nathan was so proud of Travis. He knew how hard Travis would work. Travis told him to do good and be strong. “Keep an eye on your mommy for me!” Shaylyn and I left March 24 and flew to Florida from Cincinnati airport. I gave Nathan instructions to look after house and animals while I was gone. I had a friend Tommy Thompson whom I dearly love and he loved to take him back and forth to meet his coworkers until I got back so he wouldn’t be around any of his so called friends. I texted Nathan on the 26th and told him I loved him. He told he loved me too.
March 27 at 12:36 I got a Facebook message while my daughter, my aunt and I was at a mall in Florida doing some shopping. A strange lady I never knew messaged me and said Nathan is on his way to hospital in an ambulance I said,” where was he?” She said, “ across the street from a friend’s house.” I said, “no he should be home.” She said,” he came home with his co worker this morning.” I was confused and scared. I started calling people. I tried to call tommy. He said, “yes he texted me this morning and told me his coworker was taking him home this morning.” He went to a guy’s house he didn’t know that well after work? I was panicking. I got on my knees and began to pray. I ask God to please help him one more time.
I finally got hold of his brother Daniel and his father Reese. I waited for an hour at least for someone to tell me something. I was a mess. I was trying to find a way home. We left the mall and was on our way back to my aunts when I received the worst call of my life. He had passed. The doctor explained he was actually already gone when the EMS got there but we worked and worked on him trying everything we could do to bring him back. “We are so sorry,” she said. I could not believe my son was gone. The kid who had been called to preach at the age of 7. The honor roll kid, the kid who was great at baseball, working on things and could play the guitar. My son, the gleaming child that was perfectly fine 2 days ago!
I tell this story because it’s Nathan’s story. He was a bright, intelligent, beautiful kid that had everything going for him. He had job at the age of 19 making 35$ an hour. He had a perfect girlfriend. He had his own truck, boat and apartment but he age of 19. He had died at the age of 20, two weeks before he turned 21. One month later I am still in shock. I’m still hurting. I still cry every day. I still ask God why. I pray every day. I pray now that the lord had mercy on him and I pray for God to help me and my family. I ask god to use me. I am asking you if you have an addiction to get help. I am asking you not to be blinded by the devil. I’m asking you to beat this epidemic. Nathan loved life. He loved so many. He loved God. His story will remain. His love will never leave. His face and smile are forever in our hearts. April 14, 1997-March 27, 2018. Never forgotten baby boy.
Story by Lynette Edwards