By the age of thirty, a time when most people are just beginning to think about their mortality, Austin Riley had already conquered his fear of death. He’d come exceedingly close to dying on multiple occasions, including a few months before his first birthday, when doctors discovered a golf ball–size tumor growing inside his infant skull. He would go on to spend much of his childhood in and out of hospitals, enduring high-risk brain surgeries and grueling recoveries. Then, in his mid-twenties, he was nearly killed by a brain hemorrhage that arrived one night without warning, unleashing the worst pain he’d ever felt. He emerged from that experience reborn, feeling lucky to be alive and convinced that his life had been spared by God.
So as he sat in a pool of his own blood on a beautiful October evening in 2022, he couldn’t help but acknowledge the morbid absurdity of his current predicament. He’d spent decades conquering brain injuries only to be killed while doing mundane chores on his family’s 130-acre Hill Country ranch in Boerne. “After all I’d been through,” he said, “I just couldn’t believe that this was how it was going to end.”