When Danny Bunthung was murdered in October 2017, his 3-year-old son, Travis, couldn’t understand why daddy couldn’t play with him anymore.
Over time, Travis’s mother, Savannarath Nop, was able to help Travis understand death and loss as much as a young child can.
“That was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do,” Nop said Thursday.
One thing that helped was giving Travis a pendant that contained some of his father’s ashes.
On Tuesday, Travis, now 5, lost that pendant inside a Safeway store at 15805 Pacific Ave. S. in Spanaway. Nop is hoping whoever found it will return it.
A worker at the Safeway store saw another boy playing with the pendant in a checkout line. At the time, the worker didn’t realize the pendant had been lost.
The lost necklace is another blow to the family already suffering an inconsolable loss.
Nop and Bunthung had been a couple since they were 15 years old — high school sweethearts.
Bunthung took to fatherhood, Nop said.
“He would take (Travis) to the park or, when I went to work, he would take him shopping with him,” Nop said. “They would cut their hair together, go eat together.”
On Oct. 10, 2017, Bunthung, 21, and a friend went to a liquor store in Long Beach’s Cambodia Town to get some drinks. An altercation with another group ensued.
Both men died after being shot, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram. Seven people were eventually charged in the crime that injured two others.
Following Cambodian tradition, Bunthung was cremated and his ashes interred. But, a small portion was placed into the pendant by funeral home workers, Nop said.
“‘Daddy’s in the necklace, and you’ve always got to keep it around your neck,’” Nop told Travis. “Over time he understood how important it was.”
Before bed, Travis would take off the pendant, kiss it and tell his father he loved him.
“‘Good night, Daddy. I miss you. Come home,’” Nop recalled.
After Bunthung’s murder, Nop needed a change.
“After he passed I just couldn’t be around there anymore,” Nop said. She moved to Tacoma two months later.
“This is a new start for me,” she said.
Nop’s sister lives in the area. On Tuesday, Nop was in Safeway shopping for a cake and card for her brother-in-law’s birthday.
When Travis told her the necklace was missing, Nop assumed he had lost it at school or at home.
Nop was blaming herself on Thursday for not immediately searching the store. Travis is feeling guilt over losing it as well, she said.
“It’s not his fault,” Nop said.
Getting more ashes is not an option.
“He’s been put to rest,” Nop said of Bunthung’s remains.
Her only hope is that the person who found it returns it.
“It’s out there with a stranger, and I’m worried and sad about that,” Nop said. “They don’t know what’s inside of it.”
In the meantime, Nop tells Travis that the pendant’s loss hasn’t changed his relationship with his father.
“I keep telling him, Dad is still around. Dad is still in heaven,” she said.