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.

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!

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! ❤