May 15, 2024

Cast of Characters

I confess that before losing Rhett, I did not understand the importance of being a "cast" member for the broken hearted. I am sure that I let many people down because I had no point of reference for comprehending or dealing with grief. This was written fifteen months after Rhett's death.

Lorna Hering

She was small in stature and moved with unbelievable grace. Even at the ripe old age of six, I knew she was special. I didn't actually want to be her...I wanted to be like her. I wanted to fly!

A brilliant thought occurred to me as I was sitting in that movie theater with my mom watching Peter Pan. To this day, my mother claims that she saw that thought wash over me and she warned me that I couldn't fly. I never heard that. I think I tuned her out like any highly knowledgeable 6 year old would when I realized she was downplaying Tinker Bell's aviation abilities. She was mumbling something about her being "just a character," and I didn't need my mom's skepticism weighing me down. I had goals, dreams, and plans too big for my mom to understand.

I waited a couple days before enacting my plan. I was at my grandparents' house with my sister when the opportunity presented itself. Several of the kids in the neighborhood were playing with us on the swing set in the backyard when I broached the subject of Tinker Bell. The other kids started pretending to fly by running around the yard with their arms outstretched or by laying on their bellies on a swing. They were so lame! I was embarrassed for them and their lack of adventure. Their actions were degrading to Tinker Bell and a clear indication that they did not believe in themselves. Someone had to help these people rise up!

I got everyone's attention and announced my plan: I was going to fly just like Tinker Bell did in Peter Pan. To err on the safe side, I had my sister sprinkle some sand in my hair to mimic the pixie dust that my mentor TB had used, and then I climbed to the top of the ladder of the slide, stood up proud and tall, and leapt to my destiny . . .

I don't remember much about the descent after I jumped off except that it landed me in the hospital with two broken bones in my left arm and a sandy scalp to boot. To this day, what really gets me . . . is that I believed! I actually BELIEVED I could fly, and I was shocked when it didn't pan out the way I had envisioned. (Pun intended)

I started first grade in complete disbelief that things hadn't gone according to my plan and sporting a cast on my arm that all my friends could sign.  Forty-one years later, I still can't decide if the whole Tinker Bell incident was punishment for not heeding sound advice, the beginning of me doubting myself, or just a good old fashioned character builder.

In the weeks after Rhett's death, I couldn't get over the fact that my life had taken such a terrible downward spiral. Although I had always worried about losing a child, I never actually believed it would happen to me. I am still shocked by Rhett's death and the fact that things are never going to turn out the way I had envisioned. After all, I had big goals, dreams and plans for MY life.

Since I was drowning in despair and heartbreak, I decided that I needed to find a professional counselor to talk to. That was not an easy task, and after a couple failed attempts, I gave up. Like only God can do, He connected me with an amazing woman of God who also happened to have her doctorate in grief counseling. She was a complete stranger to me, but she reached out to me via an acquaintance and asked me if I would like to meet with her at Starbucks. I agreed with some hesitation, but I followed through . . . and boy am I glad I did!

I only met with this precious woman two times, but the things she told me were of immeasurable value. I have gone back to her advice many times as I have walked this path of grief.

No doubt, the most useful and important thing she told me was to "build a cast for my heart."

I had no idea what she was talking about, so I inquired further.

She asked me what would have happened if I had been in that Polaris wreck with Rhett and had severely broken my leg. I shrugged and said that I would probably need a cast and lots of time to heal before I could walk again. She nodded . . . and slowly the words that I had just said replayed in my soul.

I did need a cast. I did need time to heal. And one day maybe there was hope that I would "walk" again. She told me that a broken heart needs even more time and care to heal than a broken bone. She also told me that like a broken bone, my broken heart would always have weak moments and ache at certain times; there was simply no way around that.

So far, she was speaking directly to my soul, and I was hanging on to every word she spoke. I understood most of what she was saying, but how would I find a cast for my heart?

That seemed unlikely and impossible.

She said I needed to ask God to help me build this cast. The purpose of the cast was to hold my shattered heart in place while it bled and tried to heal. This sounded refreshing to me . . . like maybe the love of God and the love of my supporting cast could hold me together and keep me from falling apart.

I chose some of the people who would make up my cast, and some of them chose me. The Lord carefully handpicked a few of them for me as well. Love was the recurring theme for all of my cast members, and I am ever so grateful!

"Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God." 1 John 4:7-8

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Luke 6:31

My "cast of characters" has been amazing. This cast has consisted of men, women, strangers and children from near and far who have loved me, supported me, and prayed me through the heartbreak. My heart is by no means healed, but I am learning to lean a little less on my "cast" and more on God for strength. Eventually, I hope to be able to leap to my God-given destiny. That still seems impossible to me after losing Rhett, but God is rebuilding my character, and I will choose to trust Him and His timing.

One day, even though I cannot fly in real life, I hope that my heart can soar again. I no longer want to be Tinker Bell; I just want to be the "Lorna" that God created me to be. I am trusting that He has goals, dreams, and plans too big for me to understand. I'm well aware that my broken heart and my own skepticism are weighing me down, but I will keep trying to BELIEVE that even after burying Rhett, I will one day FLY again because I have a God who makes all things possible.