The Ultimate Gut Punch

On August 12th, Jimmy and I hesitantly packed our bags and our broken hearts and headed to Florida to watch Spacex launch a Falcon 9 Rocket with a tribute sticker for Rhett on board. We boarded a plane in Austin, landed in Florida, and headed to a hotel near Cape Canaveral.
We had no idea what to expect as our knowledge of rockets was minimal while our grief felt larger than life.

It took no time at all to be completely glad that we had made the decision to go to Florida to witness the launch carrying the Rhett Revolution sticker. Spacex treated us with such genuine kindness as they honored our son, and the KWTX News team of Julie and Clint was absolutely remarkable; they became like family. Jimmy and I had some much needed time to ourselves to sit on the beach, go to dinner, and reminisce about our Rhett Jett. It was good for our souls.

The launch was one of the most magnificent things I have ever witnessed. The sheer force, power and excitement of it was mind boggling. I now know why they call it “Rocket Science.” I was dumbfounded by “all things Space” and painfully aware of my lack of understanding of anything beyond the earth’s atmosphere. From the press conference, to the launch, to our exclusive trip to the Spacex landing pad to see the landed Falcon, we were very much emotionally moved. We were informed that the Rhett Revolution sticker had made it to Space and back, and we thought that was the crux of our trip. We felt like God had given us the precious gift of a “new” Rhett memory. . . compliments of a rocket, a sticker, and Spacex.

But, like only God can do, He blindsided us with a gut wrenching reality check.

After the launch, we went to the press headquarters to eat lunch and meet back up with Julie and the KWTX crew. Julie told us that the “Rhett Revolution Sticker Going to Space” story was starting to “leak” and several reporters were starting to ask about us. Julie said she had met one reporter who did podcasts about Space and that he had quietly told her if the opportunity presented itself, he would like to interview us for his show called “Talking Space.” Julie said he was really neat, so we agreed to talk to him and waited for him to come meet us at the back of the press room.

We were a bit surprised when Sawyer Rosenstein wheeled up to us. He was in a wheelchair and it appeared that he had been in it most of his life. For some reason, I immediately KNEW that I was supposed to ask him why he was wheelchair-bound.

We chatted and did the interview with him. We told him about Rhett and the purpose of the RhettRevolution which was to spread kindness, love, joy and peer acceptance while also helping grieving parents. He listened as we told him about how losing Rhett had been a devastating “punch in the gut” for us. Sawyer was a remarkable young man who had an impressive knowledge and dedicated love of Space. We felt comfortable with him and were (just like Julie had been) instantly drawn to his sincere spirit.

As our discussion was winding down, I asked him why he was in a wheel chair. He quietly looked down like he was trying to decide if he should even burden us with his plight. We sat quietly watching and waiting, and when his eyes met ours, he told us his story:

For several moments, Jimmy and I were speechless as we wept for this precious young man sitting in front of us. He did not cry and he did not want sympathy. He simply stated that when he was in junior high, a “bully” had punched him in the gut and caused a fluke blood clot which hit his spine and paralyzed him from the hips down. He had never walked again!
He had literally lived through the “ultimate gut punch.”

I felt the air knocked out of me.
How could this be? How could one child do this to another? Why hadn’t someone stopped this? Why wasn’t someone courageous or kind or strong enough to have kept this from happening? Why hadn’t someone promoted peer acceptance and created an environment where the bully had no place to act out his aggressive behavior? Why hadn’t someone showed the bully some acceptance so he didn’t feel the need to torment his peers? My mind was reeling and my heart was hurting. My own grief took a backseat and my tendency to feel sorry for myself felt embarrassingly out of place.

We continued to talk to this remarkable young man who “WALKED” in more forgiveness and less self pity than anyone I have ever known. He was not angry. He was not full of bitterness. He was genuinely thankful for his life and how it had led him to his love for Space. I sat in awe and honestly, some guilt, as I thought of how I doubted if I could ever forgive someone if they had done this to one of my children. Needless to say, meeting Sawyer was a life-changing experience.

We know our friendship/relationship with Sawyer is just beginning. Hopefully, Sawyer will be traveling to Waco soon to spend some time with KWTX and the Board of the Rhett Revolution to see how we can partner together to promote kindness, courage, and peer acceptance. We look forward to spending more time in the presence of this incredible young man. I know he will continue to inspire and teach us just as Rhett has done.

Please pray that God will finish what He started when He brought Spacex, KWTX, Julie and Clint, the Rhett Revolution Board, the Herings and Sawyer together.

We totally believe it was for a greater purpose!

19 thoughts on “The Ultimate Gut Punch

    1. I’ve learned from experience that when ppl meet(especially due to a tragedy, illness, “nothing in common”, or by chance) it’s really for a reason. Sometimes you find out immediately, days, months, yrs. Or still don’t know why and it’s bc God isn’t ready for you to know why!!! Growing up I feel like I had “bully” tendencies and now know why(bc I was missing things I needed and didn’t know how to ask for it) and I say tendenices bc my family didn’t play or uphold my wrong doings I also had teachers, one in particular Mr. Kevin Houchin who saw my potential and encouraged me!! Back to the subject so now as an adult with children I stand against it(bullying) but I feel ppl only focus on the person been bullied which now I know they both need to help! I also know when your trying to teach and reach kids\teens a visual is always better…how cool, effective would a play be inspired by Swayer’s story!!! I would LOVE to help with the Rhett Revolution to help show that ppl are different, have disabilities(I now have a colostomy bag) long story but want to help ppl w\one or about to get one anyway just show that with one wrong “punch” someone’s life can be over, changed and may not get a do over! I love this story and the ppl it’s about!!!

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  1. Wow!! So many students could really learn from this. Teaching kids about the consequences of bullying is as important, if not more so, than academics. Thank you so much for sharing!

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      1. I love your perspective, Lorna! It is a beautiful way to approach unkindness.

        Your article had me in tears, that actually turned to happy tears. I think that Sawyer was a gift from God just as Rhett was a gift to God as angels to continue their purpose of God — to love and spread joy in a sometimes bitter world. You are meant to be in Sawyer’s life and vice versa to be continually blessed.

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  2. And this is growth through grief. Your hard work of getting up and working through each day trying to figure out why and what now. This is you evolving through and using it to be more and better. To be a confident encourager and empathizer. A person only a traumatic experience can bring. ❤️

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    1. So glad that God continues to bring people and situations in to your lives that allow you to experience healing. Nowhere near the end of it but at least one step closer.

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  3. Amazing story. How all of these events and people were woven together into the outcome you shared…. yes – only God. With so much hate in our world, all lessons & examples of ‘kindness’ in spite of one’s personal pain are greatly needed. Our own pain gives us a passion for change. You are proof of that.

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  4. As Sawyers mom I am humbled by this beautiful letter. I believe that destiny has brought you together so that my son can help your sons legacy continue on.

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    1. … or maybe my son’s life and death can help give your son a platform to talk about kindness.
      No matter how we look at it, Rhett and Sawyer are both amazing, and I will be forever grateful that our paths intersected! Your son made a huge impact on us. Thank you for raising such an extraordinary young man!

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  5. WOW. So powerfully beautiful.
    We were actually in Orlando when the rocket launched, although I was unaware it was Rhett’s rocket until later that evening when the news mentioned it. A light bulb suddenly went on and I got on the computer to see if the rocket that launched was the same that carried Rhett’s sticker to space. I was a little bummed, because had I known, we would have made the short trip to watch it launch. Then my husband told me “See, there must’ve been a reason you wore your Rhett Revolution shirt today.” I didn’t even realize.

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  6. It is so amazing how God brings people together. I truly expect big things to come out of the tragedies shared by both of your families. I am so excited about the future of Rhett Revolution and how Sawyer’s experience ties into being courageous and spreading kindness! Your words and shared experiences inspire and bring out the good in everyone!

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