On December 28th, 2015, I got a call from my husband that would change my life forever. I remember being shocked and confused and trying to control the situation with my thoughts and actions. I did not know the extent of the accident that my 15 year old son, Rhett, had been in...but I knew it was bad. I was covered in fear, but I was trying to assure my 12 year old daughter, Mara, that it was going to be okay as we prayed and waited for a ride to pick us up and take us where we needed to be. I assumed we were headed to a hospital because I had been told that Rhett was in the back of an ambulance from having suffered injuries in a Polaris accident at the end of our driveway. I had it pictured as a bad wreck, but I did not know any specifics. From my husband’s phone call, I envisioned Rhett’s arms or legs were broken, but I had asked Jimmy if Rhett was conscious, and he had said yes. Upon getting in the truck that was sent to pick us up and take us to the hospital to meet what I assumed had been a Careflight that had transported my boy, the people who were driving wouldn’t answer my questions in regards to “which hospital we were going to”. They told me that they were taking me to Jimmy, and that he would take me where I needed to be.
A feeling of terror and dread started squeezing my chest as I put together the jagged pieces of knowledge I had gathered and made a sickening hypothesis: Rhett must be dead. There’s no way I should be going home during this medical emergency...unless it was no longer an emergency.
I turned around in the truck and declared to my crying, broken-hearted 12 year old daughter that Rhett must be dead. If he were still alive, we would be rushing to a hospital to meet him.
A phone was ringing out loud in the truck as we raced toward home. I remember I didn’t want anyone to answer the phone call because I didn’t want to hear any definitive news about Rhett that I wasn’t ready to hear. I felt a panic rising in my soul, and I desperately wanted to cling to at least a spark of hope. I wanted the couple that picked us up to slow down and not drive so fast and reckless. I had this awareness of wanting time to stand still.
I thought about jumping out of the passenger door as the truck sped to take me home. I was willing to do anything to keep from learning the truth of how bad things were. If we kept driving or if I bailed, I would never have to face the devastation that I felt was looming around the corner for our close knit family of five. Bailing out of the moving truck was not an option because my daughter was in the back seat. How could I throw my body from this speeding vehicle right in front of her eyes? I felt trapped. No options. I was in a cage headed toward a darkness that I knew had the power to crush me.
As we approached the turn to Windsor Road, I begged the couple who had picked us up to PLEASE keep driving. I did not want to see or know anything permanent. I did not want all hope to be ripped away. Of course, they turned down our road and the chaos was immediately evident as our home came into view. Ambulances. Paramedics. Firetrucks. Police.
There were people standing in the road and in the yard next door where my in-laws lived. As we turned into their driveway, I saw my oldest son, Ryan, who was 16 at the time crying and pushing his hands down into the pockets of the new blue jacket he had just gotten for Christmas. I knew. I knew… but my heart was frantically trying to create a different scenario than the one that was becoming all too clear.
As we came to a stop, my daughter jumped out and ran to the house because she had to get to a bathroom. When I opened the door to get out of the truck, I saw my husband walk toward me in his work clothes wearing a thick black jacket that had been placed over his shoulders at the scene by a police officer. I remember it registering in my bones how very cold it was outside.
I looked at Jimmy and said, “He’s dead, isn’t he?”
And Jimmy said yes...
His answer was yes.
My next memory is of being face-down on the ground under a tree. Jimmy was on his hands and knees with me, and he was saying things like:
“You should go look at Rhett”
”He looks beautiful and peaceful”
“He has no visible injuries”
I could barely process what I was hearing. This had to be a nightmare. Surely, Jimmy was not encouraging me to go look at my dead son...the same boy I had just hugged goodbye a couple hours ago and told that dinner was in the crockpot. The same sweet boy that had captured and held a huge piece of my heart for 15 years. I knew immediately that there was NO way I could survive looking at the lifeless body of my Rhett Jett. My heart was shattered from just the idea that he was gone; seeing it was completely out of the question.
When I finally sat up, I saw people huddled together and crying, I saw policemen and other workers looking at us with compassion and sympathy. It was surreal. It was awful. And there was no denying...it was a moment in time that would forever change the core of who I was.
Life as I knew it began to unravel...