The Waters of “what should have been”

Rhett “should have” started his Senior year today…

I have not been out to the grave that holds Rhett’s body in over two years…
not since August of 2016.
It’s just too much to take in. I normally cannot handle the pain.

But after dropping Mara off at the high school this morning, I found myself sitting out here by your grave…wishing, weeping, and wanting things to be different.
You should be starting your Senior year today.

We didn’t get to go school clothes shopping.
You didn’t pick out a new backpack or fancy new athletic shoes.
You aren’t sore and worn out from football practice.
We didn’t get to go “meet” your teachers.
We aren’t talking about the ACT/SAT scores or what colleges you want to apply to.
I’m not buying “football mom” shirts, and they didn’t call your name at “Meet the Bulldogs”.
Your sister will cheer on Friday nights, but not for you. This was NOT how she dreamed it would be.
Ryan won’t be rushing home from ATM after his last class of the week to watch his little brother play under the Friday Night Lights.
There will be no “cap and gown” pictures, or graduation invitations, or new patches for a letter jacket.
No victories to celebrate. No losses to lament. Nothing.
All of that was stolen on December 28, 2015. Gone. Taken. Vanished, with no warning.

You did not get to drive to school and walk into the building as a senior this morning.
Nor will you tomorrow, or the next day. Or ever.

Jimmy and I will attend as many school events as our hearts can handle this year, and we will process our grief together when we get home. There are simply no words to describe how much losing you has changed our lives.

Your death is my never-ending heartache.
I have many questions about that cold December day, but I am SURE that Jesus rescued you. You were, are, and forever will be His!

This year will be hard for me, Rhett Jett.
I long for you to be present…
to be here with your friends, on the teams, in our home, at the bar eating dinner, hunting, laughing, sleeping in your bed, hugging me, breathing and living.
Breathing and living.
Living and breathing.
With us.

This was supposed to be your year!
I pray for the strength to honor God, you, and your memory as we wade through the waters of “what should have been”. Those waters are turbulent, deep, and unpredictable.
It’s so easy to drown and so hard to stay above water.
Jesus, we need you. Please, be our anchor, our ever-present help in times of trouble.

Rhett, keep visiting me in my dreams. Just a glimpse of you can sustain me. You know.❤️
I love you! I miss you! I always will!

Rhett Curtis Hering
Senior year 2018-2019

Meet me in the confessional

1. After much soul searching and prayer, I have decided to get off Facebook for “what should have been” Rhett’s senior year. I have nothing against Facebook or posts about seniors. They are sweet and appropriate, but they often tend to magnify my loss, and I feel like I need to really focus on healing while I maneuver the roaring rapids of this year.

2. I will try to blog more. Maybe this is my season for writing, not scrolling.

3. As always, feel free to share any of my blogs on your social media outlets. I didn’t leave Facebook in protest mode…I left in “protect mode” for my heart!

Identity “Crysis”

I want to scream…and cry.
I want to know how to rid myself of this lump in my throat and this ache in my heart.
I still want to know why I even have to deal with this identity crisis.
But I do.
I didn’t even consciously know this crisis existed until a specific moment this week, but now that I know, I have to do something… and that will be tough.

I had an epiphany. It was an eye-opening and heart-heavy experience, mixed with a whisper of freedom for my bondage. I could see it so clearly, and it hurt. And it embarrassed me. And it angered me.
But…worst of all, I knew “it” clearly identified me.

I used to be my own person. I used to know my identity. I was strong, I was creative, I was happy, I was “blessed”. I was a child of God.
I was Lorna Hering.

I lost her. Actually, she was abducted at 3:23 on December 28th, 2015 when Rhett died.
I don’t blame myself. I didn’t chose to lose myself.
The grief was all consuming. It ate me alive.
If you aren’t on this side of the “child loss equation”, you simply cannot understand.
It’s beyond your ability to comprehend the ripping and tearing of your DNA when your child dies.
And I have to admit… I used to be on the other side of that ugly equation too…and maybe I was a bit judgmental when people couldn’t move on after a loss or a tragedy. Maybe a bit too quick to think I had the answers. Maybe a bit too hasty to give up on a grief stricken soul. And, I was totally incapable of understanding the plight of parents who have had to live through such a deep identity crisis.

But I have had a shockingly-hard epiphany.
It breaks my heart and leaves me feeling lost.
I have totally forfeited my identity as anything other than Rhett’s momma. The dead kid’s mom. The lady who lost her boy in an ATV accident. The bereaved mother. The heartbroken shell of the ex-Lorna Hering.

I never did that intentionally. I just kept slipping and falling and grabbing on to Rhett. I did not and do not want to let him go. And to be honest, I don’t think I will ever successfully figure out how to really let him go as long as I am breathing.

But… I do have to give Rhett back to Rhett.
I have to let Rhett have his name and his identity back.
As much as I love being associated with that sweet boy of mine that died too soon, I hear God saying that I need to remember that I have my own identity…
I love that. I hate that.
It feels like freedom. It feels like heart break.
It feels like I’m abandoning my boy and letting go of his memory.
It feels like hope, like I’m letting go of heaviness.

Jesus says…
My real identity is that I belong to Him and share His DNA.
My real identity is that I am a child of God that has survived the unimaginable and am somehow now better equipped to help others.
My real identity is not “a bereaved mother” but “a beloved daughter” of the King.

I am Lorna Hering.
I have scars and bruises and rips.
But, I am still who He made me to be.
I am not just a product of the most devastating tragedy that my heart has ever known.
I am more.
I have to locate the real me again. I have to search for and reclaim my identity.
That does not mean that I am abandoning Rhett.
You must understand that I miss him and hurt the same as I did before this revelation.
It just means that I am ready to re-find ME.

And if you have sat with me during this “identity crysis”…thank you.
You have helped me reach the point of wanting to find myself again.
And I will need your help as I search for me.
And if you have been “offended” or put out by my identity crisis, please forgive me and maybe have a little extra grace for those like me…because this side of the “child loss equation” has been so hard on Rhett’s mom
…I mean me
…I mean Lorna Hering.

A Warrior’s Battle

When our kids were little, they wanted to know why we left home every morning and what we did all day. We explained to them that I was an English teacher and that Jimmy was a lawyer. Ryan, Rhett, and Mara were satisfied with that answer, but our middle son Rhett misunderstood Jimmy’s job description. He had no idea what a “lawyer” was, so he assumed we were saying “warrior.” He was so proud that his dad was a “warrior,” and he began saying that he wanted to be a warrior when he grew up too! We thought it was cute when he made that innocent statement.

But maybe Rhett knew something we didn’t know, because Rhett indeed became a warrior. In his short fifteen years, he fought for justice. He battled for acceptance for his peers. He fought for kindness and protected the underdog. His battle cry was love and his weapon of choice was joy and laughter. He never backed down from a worthwhile challenge. Rhett’s earthly life ended on December 28, 2015. The tragic events of that day waged a war on my heart as his mother, but I have no doubt that Rhett is now a warrior in Heaven with Jesus.

As a mother, losing a healthy child in a tragic accident launched me into a fierce battle. There is something so devastating about burying a child that was once in your womb. I used to think you got to “pick your battles,” but I’m not that naive anymore. I would never have chosen this battle. The tour of duty for a bereaved mother is not for the weak. There is no “warrior” training for a catastrophic war of this magnitude.

Instead of a battle cry, I cried over the battle of losing Rhett. I have wanted to surrender to the overwhelming grief on many occasions. Despair, bitterness, loneliness and fear are my constant enemies, and they are strategically placed on the battlefield. I have to armor up daily to face those battles. Being a warrior is hard work; it’s not easy to choose faith and hope when you are brutally wounded. I wish that being a “warrior” came as easy for me as it did for Rhett. My husband and children have all proven to be tough warriors. They courageously battle the brokenness and strive daily to live with love and honor for their favorite warrior.

Rhett’s untimely death prevented him from growing up, but it did not keep him from being the warrior he was destined to be. My battle cry now is that I can become the warrior that I was destined to be. In reality, we are all warriors facing battles in this game called life, and our only hope for victory is that Jesus is willing to fight for each of us. As I continue to struggle and grow on this journey through grief, I find myself saying the same thing Rhett did whenever he was little. . . “I want to be a warrior when I grow up too!”

I wrote this article for a new magazine in the Central Texas area called Modern Texas Living.  (July 2017)
Pick up a copy of this magazine around Waco and check it out!

And as always, if you like what you read on my blog, share away on your social media platforms! ❤


Unbridled, Unboxed, and thankful?

I really did learn so much from that blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy of mine. He wasn’t perfect, 😏he sometimes made hasty decisions without weighing all the consequences, 😳and occasionally he cared a little too much about his “swag”.🙄
But . . . Rhett’s heart and moral compass were pure and honorable. He was kind, fearless, and full of adventure, and he taught me some vital truths about relationships and God through his life . . . and his death.

We used to have two old horses that roamed the pastures behind our house. They always stayed in the general vicinity of each other and often hung around the cows. These two horses were rarely if ever ridden, but we loved having them around. Rhett and Mara would feed them apples when they could get them to come over to our fence, and occasionally they would try to sit on them. I remember feeling sad when one of the horses passed away because I was afraid the other horse felt lost and lonely.

Soon after the first horse died, I made the following comment to Rhett: “I hope that horse thinks he is a cow now. I don’t want him to be sad. I want him to just blend in with the cows so he knows he hasn’t been left alone.”

Immediately, Rhett responded: “No way, Mom! I want that horse to KNOW he is a horse. He doesn’t need to pretend to be something else just because he lost his buddy.” I was struck by the wisdom of that statement. Rhett was so right, and he had recognized something important that I had not: Loss should lead you to find your identity, not lose it.

The next day I was outside washing my car when I heard a strange noise coming from the field behind our house. The noise was Rhett laughing and galloping bareback on an unbridled horse across the pasture. I was shocked to say the least. What did he think he was doing? He didn’t even know how to ride a horse!

I held my breath until he finished his ride and walked back up to the house carrying the large bucket he had used to help himself climb up on the horse. He casually explained that he was “showing” the horse that it was definitely still a horse because no one ever rides a cow. Rhett knew that sometimes words were not enough. He knew he couldn’t just TELL the horse, he had to SHOW the horse who he was. It was risky and it took time and effort, but Rhett was always willing to go the extra mile. Once again, I was the student learning about life from that unbridled blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy of mine.

The November before we lost Rhett, we had decided as a family that we were going to do devotionals after dinner when we were able to sit down and have a family meal. Of course, that wasn’t every night because we were a busy family with sporting events and many other obligations. We all knew what order we went in, so each person just got ready and held on to their “word” until it was their turn and we found ourselves seated around the kitchen table sharing a meal together. Each person had to have a title for their “devo” because we wrote them on a chalk board for the month.

On December 23, 2015, the five of us had just finished eating a meal when Jimmy asked whose turn it was to do the devotional. Rhett jumped up and said it was his turn as he ran to his room to get his iPad. He returned to the table and found the notes he had made in preparation to deliver the “word” for the evening. He announced that “Unbox God” was his title.

He started out by saying how much he loved Christmas and opening gifts. He went on to say that we often miss the real “gift” of Christmas. He said we open up Christmas presents with excitement because we are eager to see what’s inside the box, but we never really “unbox” God. He explained that we often keep God in a box and therefore we never really get to see how BIG God is. He challenged each of us to focus on unboxing God in our lives. We prayed and wrote it on our December board. And again, I was thankful for the lesson my blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy had taught us.

And five days later, Rhett was dead. Just like that. Killed in a tragic accident. Ripped out of our lives forever. No warning. No goodbye. Just gone. Suddenly and forever gone.

I don’t remember many specific details about that night as I sat on the floor in our living room while people flooded our home with love and tears. I kept replaying Rhett’s devotional in my mind, and I knew that I would indeed need to “unbox” a very big God if I had any hope at all of surviving this loss.

I was absolutely sick to the core of my being. Rhett was dead, my precious blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy was in the morgue, and I was completely devastated. It was so unfair! I had never taken Rhett for granted. I had always been so thankful for the treasure I had in Rhett, for his love, and for the lessons he taught me on such a regular basis. How could this be happening?

But happen it did, and in Rhett’s final act on earth, he taught me the hardest lesson I have ever learned. I suppose one day I will thank him, but that seems impossible right now.  I just can’t bring myself to say the words out loud. . . I can barely type them.

How does a mother ever “thank” her son for dying before her? That’s absurd!
How does a mother ever accept the fact that her son’s death taught her the most valuable lesson she has or EVER will learn?

I still do not know how to be truly thankful for this; I will openly admit that right now.
I’m just not selfless or strong enough yet to say “thank you” for this lesson.
I doubt that I will ever be strong enough to say those words on this side of heaven.

But, I am fully aware of what Rhett’s death has taught me.
There is no denying that this lesson cost me SO MUCH MORE than I was ever WILLING to pay. Losing Rhett taught me that I must find my identity in Christ instead of relying on anything else. Because quite simply, I learned the hard way that there really is nothing else.

To put it plainly, the lesson for me was that I need Jesus more than I need ANYTHING.
When my life was easy,  Jesus was a great “addition” to my life. I loved him and honored him with my words, but loving Jesus with my words was no longer going to be enough. I had never totally made Him my first priority. He was never my sole source of HOPE. And, while I had never taken Rhett for granted, I had most assuredly taken Jesus and His death on the cross for granted.

But when they lower a casket into the grave that holds a literal piece of your own soul, you become more thankful than ever for Jesus. Rhett’s salvation is secured ONLY because of Jesus and His death on the cross. I couldn’t save Rhett. The paramedics couldn’t save Rhett. Jimmy couldn’t save Rhett. We never had that ability, but I am humbly thankful that Jesus did what none of us were ever capable of doing in the first place.

I do not think for one moment that God orchestrated this tragedy to teach me a lesson. We live in a fallen world that is sometimes full of heartbreak. What happened to Rhett will always break my heart. Always.
But like only Rhett could do, he SHOWED me the real crux of what this life is all about. He just had a knack for pointing me toward love, truth, and Jesus, and his departure from this world was no exception.

The “out loud” thank you will have to wait until I am in Heaven in the actual “unbridled” Presence of Jesus with an “unboxed” God and reunited with Rhett again. After I thank Jesus for who He is and what he did for me, I imagine I will grab my blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy and whisper in his ear.
I will say “thank you for SHOWING me how much I needed Jesus!”

Meet me in the Confessional:

1. I confess that this was so hard to write. I have cried hundreds of tears writing this. I am thankful for Jesus, but I’m still so broken. I wish I could have learned this lesson in a much less costly way. Gratitude can be hard!

2. I miss my  “blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy” more than words can say.