For nearly three weeks, the Wichita Falls community has rallied around MMA fighter Bubba McDaniel and his family following the death of his 2-year-old son.
The day was Oct. 11, and Bubba McDaniel was in a truck with some co-workers when he received a call that changed his life forever. A Wichita Falls Police officer called him, and after McDaniel asked the officer if his son, 2-year-old Wilder McDaniel, had died, the response was devastatingly deafening.
“Yes, sir, he is,” Bubba said recalling the officer’s words.
McDaniel said he was at a loss for words. He said he was confused and unsure of what to do.
“So, I screamed at him,” McDaniel said. “I said ‘are you kidding me?’
‘”No, sir,” McDaniel said he remembers the officer said to him. “I’m not.”
Those words echoed in his mind, but all McDaniel said he could think about was his son, the small, warm body that pressed against him in a hug.
“Anything to do with him that I remembered,” McDaniel said. “I was never able to touch again. I wanted to die.”
McDaniel said Wilder will be remembered as someone who lights up a room whenever he walks through the door.
“You knew anything he wanted to do he could do because like I said the energy was at him. He walked by and everybody would notice,” McDaniel said. “I don’t know how else to describe him other than. Just phenomenal. He was extravagant. He was unbelievably special, but he had no idea just how much.”
One of his last nights he spent with Wilder is one McDaniel will hold dear to him for the rest of his life.
“We slept on the couch that night, and I remember rolling him off. In the middle of the night, he jumped up and grabbed my arm, and he held onto my arm,” McDaniel said. “He eventually ended up on my chest again. Sometimes he just stays on my arm, it’s almost like, I don’t know, like something somewhere else was telling us that we needed that extra big hug for the night.”
Other nights, McDaniel said he was the one that needed the extra big hugs, and Wilder would lend that comfort to him.
“I hugged him bye, and we gave each other a few more kisses and just ‘love you so much,'” McDaniel said. “I usually go in and help put him in his car seat things like that, but I kind of let him get in himself that time. I gave him a kiss bye. It was one of those last that I didn’t know I wouldn’t get to do.”
On Oct. 26, McDaniel was charged with threatening on social media to kill a man he believes is responsible for the death of his son. McDaniel said what happened that night is something he regrets.
“I just know I went about a situation that I shouldn’t go about the way I did,” McDaniel said.
For McDaniel, the sense of loss is hard to explain, as is the pain.
Over the last two years, McDaniel said he’s been able to hold his son, “tough his body and sit with him and kiss his head,” and yet, it was not enough. It went away too soon.
“To know he’s not going to walk around the corner to run into me for me to pick up and hug is a feeling I fight every day,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel wants to preserve Wilder’s legacy by starting a foundation or an organization in his name to help families who might one day also have to deal with a similar loss.
If you would like to help the McDaniel family, click here.