In the weeks following Emmett’s death, I received many priesthood blessings. One in particular—given to me on a very trying day when I was exhausted—stands out in my mind. My body hurt, and I didn’t know if I could take another minute. A spiritual leader from my church, my Stake President, put his hands on my head and blessed me with many things. The phrase that stuck out in my mind for weeks after the blessing, was: “There is a man who has been preparing to come and help heal your family.” I knew when that sentence hit the air . . . that one day I would meet a man who would have the gift to help heal my family, and I could only hope that meant that I would be a wife again in the future.
I put that thought in the back of my mind for safekeeping. It didn’t seem to be an idea that could pertain to me in any near future. I had a broken family to put together, a murder trial to go through, and let’s be honest . . . a body that JUST had a baby. There was no way I would be ready for said man to come our way any time soon. I knew in my heart that even if a man was being prepared to come and help me heal our family, he was going to need to see some hope that we were fixable . . . and I saw no apparent timeframe for that happening . . . EVER.
One afternoon, I had an appointment with a partner of a friend of ours to discuss some changes in a health plan policy. I had met him a few times, but really didn’t know him personally. We sat on the couch in my living room chatting about his line of business, and he offered me some great long term advice. As he got up to leave, he turned and said, “I know I don’t really know you . . . and this is super awkward . . . but I feel strongly I need to tell you this. … I was randomly listening to a talk this morning with one of the General Authorities talking about when his wife died. He was saying how he felt lost and like he could never love again . . . but then he met a woman whom he felt inspired to marry quite quickly after his wife passed away . . . and the whole way here I have felt really impressed to share this with you. … You will probably never feel prepared to love again, just like the man in the talk, but Heavenly Father might send you someone who will come to help you heal.”
The minute he said the word ‘heal,’ I thought back to the blessing I had received containing that very same word. Heal . . . that is what I planned on doing long before a man would ever get to know me again. I appreciated this health insurance agent’s willingness to share those thoughts with me . . . but inside, I was almost laughing. Like I really needed to worry about someone ever wanting any part of my crazy life.
Some weeks after our talk in my living room, I found myself once again sitting alone in the Celestial Room of the Temple. I spent a lot of time there trying to find peace. This day, my tears were a plea for healing. In silent prayer, I begged—not for the impossible ‘do over’ for which I had spent weeks wishing—but for true healing. I didn’t want to be broken any longer; I didn’t want to feel alone. I wanted to be free from the void enmeshed in my soul. I prayed for healing that when the time did come, I would be able to stand worthily and be prepared.
I knew that, one day, I would be given the opportunity to love again . . . but I began to have a very strong opinion of what I had to be first, and what I had to have.
What if there was someone prepared to come and be my partner? My mind wandered to my internal list of requirements. I wrestled with my thoughts and began setting high standards and criteria for this imagined man’s personality traits and qualities. I reflected back on Emmett’s virtues, but also on his imperfections, which I had come to blame for my current situation. I began to panic. I could not accept anything less than perfection if I were to ever love again. Emmett and I had seemed to be a dream couple . . . he had so many of the qualities I had looked for in a spouse . . . and yet here I was, sitting alone . . . and feeling even more alone inside. If I were ever to do THAT again . . . I deserved perfection and ease . . . and that was FINAL.
As I sat in the Celestial Room, I let Heavenly Father know exactly what I expected this man to be. He wouldn’t be able to come into my life for a few years, because I wanted to be “whole” first. Like me, he needed to be a widower. Other things I was certain of as well: he would not have attended Centennial High School, he would not have a tattoo, and he would not be a convert to our Church. I listed off every one of the background facts about Emmett, which I had come to blame for his bad choices. I told Heavenly Father what I would be able to put up with this time around . . . and informed Him what I expected of this next man . . . PERFECTION. I had been through anything but . . . and I was not about to think of allowing myself to settle for less than that.
When I got through with my check lists of “Do’s and Don’ts” I sat there silent, embarrassed that I had just given God a list of what I expected Him to do for me. I could almost picture Him sitting there with His arms folded saying, “You about done daughter?”
I looked around the room, feeling uncomfortable for having just stubbornly rattled off all of my expectations. I was about to stand up to leave when I felt the calmest feeling of peace come to my mind, along with this message: “His mission in life will be to heal this family.”
Now I was not just embarrassed, I was ashamed that instead of spending the last half hour listening and praying for counsel, I was demanding and elaborating on what I would and wouldn’t accept in a possible future husband. What was wrong with me? I was too ashamed to stand up and leave on that note.
His mission . . . what did that mean? Did that mean he would not have served a full-time mission as a young man? Well that surely didn’t fit the mold I had just created, but yes . . . that seemed to be exactly what the message meant. He hadn’t served a mission . . . but taking on my crazy clan would be just that for him: a full-time mission! That realization settled deep down inside of me and brought a tear to my eye . . . and a smile to my face.
I drove home with a new sense of hope that day. Maybe I didn’t have to have it all figured out . . . if this poor fellow needed to serve time to fulfill his mission, maybe my broken family was good enough just the way we were right now! I walked a little lighter as I opened the front door and looked around at what some might look at as a broken group of individuals. All I could see was beauty.
One night, a few days later, my sister Ali and her boyfriend at that time, Will, helped me put all the kids to bed. As we sat down on the couch, they started talking about how much work it was for me all alone, and how I needed some help. Somehow the idea of going online and checking out eligible bachelors became a reality. Ali and Will spent hours laughing their guts out at the idea of “lining me up” with some of the men they found on the internet. I humored them by laughing . . . but inside, I began to grow scared just thinking about the process of dating again. I stared at a few of the photos thinking . . . there is no way I will ever trust a single one of them. First of all, I just had a baby . . . who would ever want to take out a chubby widow with five kids whose husband was murdered because he was cheating on her? The odds were certainly not in my favor. After deciding we were done for the night, I felt discouragement set in as we turned off the computer, and I headed to bed.
I lay in bed, a little ticked off at myself for even looking at those men online, but I was even more overwhelmed by the idea of putting myself out there in any way again. I resolved that I would never again look at another online profile.
However, without my knowing it and as it turned out, luckily for me, Ali and Will had a greater scheme brewing. They had entered my e-mail address onto the site!
Over the next few days, every time I checked my e-mail, there would be a million messages from the dating website where we had been browsing. I hated the reminder that I had been looking in the first place. It was hard enough for me to check my e-mail as it was . . . the last thing I needed was to be stalked by this dating website, or to have to pay a fee or give them any more information about myself.
One afternoon, I had had enough. I opened one of the e-mails from the website and scrolled down to find the ‘delete me from your records’ button. However, as I scrolled, I came to a section called NEW IN YOUR AREA. A row of photographs stared out at me, but all I could see were two blue eyes.
I kept scrolling down, then found my way back up to the big blue eyes and happy smile. Wait . . . I didn’t remember this face from the other night as we had laughed our way through the profile pictures. I knew this guy hadn’t been on there then, and there was something about his eyes that drew me to him. I couldn’t stop staring at his photo.
I clicked on the photo, which led me to his profile. What was I doing? This was not what I wanted to do . . . but as I read and gazed at a handful of his photos, I couldn’t help but smile. I sat at my computer staring. I tried to send him a message, but since I hadn’t paid to have a profile posted, the site wouldn’t allow me to send a message. So I got out my credit card and paid the fee.
I think my message said something like, “Hey . . . yeah . . . so I am not going to do this whole online dating thing, but looks like we are from the same town and I don’t know, you seem normal and if you ever want to chat my number is . . .” (I later came to learn that he had to pay the fee to sign up as well, just to receive my message!)
What was I doing? I felt ridiculous and yet . . . I felt so confident. It was exactly what I was supposed to be doing. There was something in this man’s eyes that reassured my heart.
That weekend, some of my friends kidnapped me and took me on a two-day girls’ retreat. It was the first night I had spent away from the kids, and I was so nervous to leave them. The first morning I didn’t even wake up until noon! It was a relaxing and beautiful getaway up in the mountains with great food and nothing but calm. It was the perfect weekend.
On the last day, I was in the middle of a massage when my phone received a text message. The therapist asked me if I wanted her to hand me the phone. I said, “No thanks . . . I’m half asleep and don’t want to talk to anyone at the moment.”
When my time was up, she left the room and I lay face down for a while, tears streaming from my eyes. I loved getting away, and being so relaxed, but I missed my children. I missed their sweet faces and the safety I felt when they were in my arms. I hated being away from them. What if they needed me? What if they felt frightened or alone and I wasn’t there to help them? What if I needed them? They always made me feel so loved. I always knew that I was enough for them. I missed them so badly.
My face began to hurt . . . but I didn’t move. In that moment, I felt the reassurance that my kids were all I had . . . and I was okay with that. I couldn’t wait to get home to tell them about the feelings of peace I had found over the weekend, and I couldn’t wait to go home with a renewed sense of who I was and everything that I saw we could be.
I finally stood up, got dressed and began to head for the door. I pushed the button on my phone to see what time it was, and there it was . . .
“HI. This is “Lakersfan24.” You gave me your number and I just thought I would say hello. How is your afternoon going? I just got done with my daughter’s dance recital. It was super fun. Anyway, I was just thinking of you and wanted to say Hi.”
I sat back down, with butterflies in my stomach. I read the words over and over. I started to text back, then I paused. What should l say? I erased everything I had written. For a few minutes, I tried to decide what I should write to someone who didn’t even know my name. I vowed that I wouldn’t give any specifics about myself until I knew for sure that this man was not a crazy person.
I went downstairs to join the rest of my friends, who were having fun in the game room. I kept putting my hand on my cell phone, in an attempt to text back, but I just couldn’t do it. Every time I reached for my phone, guilt would set in, because Emmett had only been gone for a few months. I was insane to even think about talking to another guy, let alone a stranger. As I sat and talked with my friends, my mind churned with this internal debate about whether or not I should respond and if I did, what should I reply.
I went in the bathroom where I could be alone and decided that it was time. I took out my phone, and typed out my message: “Hello there. Sorry it took me a while to reply. I was getting a massage. Dance recital huh? That sounds fun.”
We texted back and forth throughout the day. He was so refreshing and seemed so real, and I genuinely enjoyed our conversations. He even sent me a picture of his cute daughter in her little ballet tutu. Everything seemed to be going great. I couldn’t wait to read his next text. He was adorable and funny and the smile on my face seemed to grow with every word he typed.
Then it came . . . I got the text that almost became the deal-breaker of a lifetime.
“Well,” he revealed to me, “I grew up in Eagle and went to Centennial High School! I live here in town. I have been divorced for two years.”
I put down my phone . . . NO! … I had resolved that there was no way I would ever go out with anyone who went to the same high school as Emmett. Couldn’t I just get away from people who knew anything about me? I didn’t want to have to tell him that I was the widow from the horrible story he had read about in the news. He would run for sure if I gave him any of that personal information. Plus, I needed someone who didn’t know Emmett, someone who would be emotionally unattached to anything from my past. AND . . . Divorced? I had enough baggage on my own.
I didn’t reply for a long time. I was debating about whether I should just never text him back, or if I should make up some kind of a story. So, I would pick up my phone and start typing a lie . . . then I would feel guilty and erase it. I didn’t want to give him any reason to reject me, so I thought maybe I should just get it over with, not let him know anything more about me, and just end this conversation once and for all. Again, I wrestled inside of myself about what to do. Then all of the sudden this burst of ‘what the heck’ came over me, and I decided to just rip it off, like a band aid.
I picked up my phone and let it all out, “Well . . . my real name is Ashlee Corrigan. I have five kids, and I was recently widowed. My husband’s name was Emmett Corrigan . . . and he went to your high school. He was the man who was murdered a while back at Walgreens.” SEND . . .
I knew that would be the end of our conversation, and I was okay with the fact that this would probably be how my dating life would be . . . for a long time. In that moment, I truly knew in my heart that I would never hear from Lakersfan24 ever again.
I put my phone away and tried to enjoy the friends who were all around me. Auna and I did a ‘Dundee’ awards ceremony and awarded random mugs—which she had found at thrift stores—to each of our friends for a specific funny reason. It was hilarious. I laughed so hard . . . actual deep belly laughs. It felt so good to be laughing and having a good time, but in the back of my mind, I was really wondering what “lakersfan24” was thinking.
As our night came to an end, I finally got the courage to pick up my phone. I had a message. It was him. “Wow,” he wrote “I had no idea. I read your entire story in the news. When I saw your picture, you looked so familiar, but I didn’t put any of that together. I am so sorry for everything you have been through. I can’t say I have any words to describe how sorry I am. I know a lot of people who knew Emmett. I never met him personally, but everyone who knows you has raved about what an amazing mother you are. I would like to take you on a date if that is okay with you.”
What? He knew how crazy my life was, and he text me back? I didn’t know this man, and I didn’t know if he would ever really take me on a date, but just the fact that he text me back, after hearing who I was, healed something inside of me. It gave me hope that my broken life didn’t have to define who I would become. It healed the fear inside of me that led me to believe that I would never go out on another date.
As we all went to bed that night, I couldn’t sleep. Again, I offered up prayers to my Heavenly Father. This time, I thanked Him for sending me a new friend. I didn’t question His timing, and I didn’t even question why this friend had so many of the traits I had put on my “Unacceptable List.” Instead, I just told Him how grateful I was to have a friend who was willing to look past the crazy life that was mine, and try to see me.
I thanked Him for the healing I had felt that entire weekend. I begged for a continued road to reconstruction as I went home that next morning to a family who needed my love.
We left the country to go back to the city, and as we drove into town, I could see light infuse every landscape we passed. It was Mother’s Day. I went to church to celebrate myself as a mom, surrounded by my babies. They seemed to glow, and so did I.
I knew that day that we were going to heal. Someday, we would be set free from the darkness that had tried to destroy us. For the first time since their father died, my children had a real light in their eyes. They were looking to me to help them find peace, and I was watching the hand of God send me my own. He had a plan for us, and I could feel the power of His plan. I was no longer going to fight it. I was going to let Him steer my course, and I wanted to show Him that I had faith that He would not lead me astray.
On the road to moving forward, the steps to healing are different for each of us. Sometimes, we need years to heal ourselves before we begin to think about moving forward, and other times, God has a greater plan to help us heal. He asks us to leap.
Whatever dark roads have caused you pain, there is a path that can lead you to the healing you seek. I thought my job was to heal myself, and then search for a way to find love again, but Heavenly Father seemed to have a different plan in mind for me. That text message was not just some random message from a man I didn’t know, it was a gift from God reminding me that maybe my past was dark, but I was not broken. There was hope that someone might be able to look past the crooked road I had traveled, and help me find the way to the new road He had planned for me. The thought of love became less scary as I felt the loving hand of God reassure and inspire me to follow the spirit, which led me to a new friend.
Healing, is not something we can always do on our own. Some of us need the help of professionals, some need medication, but we all need each other. We were not sent here to earth to do everything on our own. As a bull-headed woman, I didn’t always comprehend that. I could do most things on my own, and I didn’t always like to rely on someone else.
Even before Emmett died, I didn’t really NEED him in parenting. I did most things on my own, and though I really longed to have him with me, a part of me enjoyed doing it all my own way. It wasn’t until after he died, that I realized how much I really did need him. At that point, I also learned that I had to rely on others. It was a humbling time when I learned that I did need others in my life when I fell short. Emmett’s death was humbling in more ways than one. I learned that when I felt insignificant by myself, it was okay to ask for help.
It wasn’t until after Emmett’s death that I truly realized how much I really did need Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Atonement.
Healing was not something I could do on my own. I needed Heavenly Father, I needed Jesus Christ’s love, and I needed the power that was available because of His life on earth and His death on the cross. I needed to have Them steer my course . . . and I needed to have faith that when They told me to have patience . . . I needed to wait. When They asked me to jump in with both feet with faith . . . I needed to leap.
There had been so many moments when I had prayed for help in my life when the answer always seemed to be: “Be still, and have patience.” And, as a woman who constantly needed a reminder to wait and have faith in God’s timing, I had counted on those lessons in patience continuing. Little did I know, that for once in my life . . . at a time when all I thought I needed was patience . . . Heavenly Father would ask me to take a giant LEAP of faith.
We all need each other when it comes to healing. We need to support each other, we need to help others through their hard times . . . and we need to allow others to help us through our own. This answer to my prayer, through the text message of a stranger, would not be the last time that Heavenly Father would send help to me on my road to healing.
I didn’t need a list of what would be best for me, because God’s list was what I really needed. There wasn’t going to be a “perfect man” sent my way, because frankly . . . I was not a perfect woman. I was in no way ready to “move on,” but I wasn’t about to fight the peace that came to me as I did.
Sometimes we will be humbled by the “I will nevers” of life. Just when we think we have it all figured out, that’s when we are sent the deal-breakers! When his text came with the description of his childhood that had parallels to Emmett’s, I wanted to run away. I had made it clear that I had my own plan, and I had my own perfect list.
One of the greatest teaching moments in life is just when we think we have it all figured out, we are sent trials or opportunities to exercise our faith. We will be asked to have patience through sickness, we will be reminded that we are not invincible. We will be asked to love others through their addictions, and shown that we can have the power to help them heal. We might be asked to carry the heavy load of others’ pain as they learn to heal. And then other times, we might be asked to be humble enough to let others come in and fulfill their missions as they help us reconstruct ourselves.
We have to have faith that sometimes—even when the conditions we have created are not met—our Heavenly Father’s blessings are even greater than any we could have imagined on our own.
Nonetheless, His timing and His blessings will sometimes come in imperfect packages. Sometimes, the very thing we have put our foot down about, will be just the thing He uses to allow us to show Him that we can still have faith.
Where ever you are on your road to healing, watch for the little blessings being sent your way. Allow them to be the tools they were meant to be, even if they are as simple as a feeling of peace that comes to your heart, or a text message that reminds you that you are lovable, just the way you are.
On the other hand, even though we all need those around us in this journey, we can’t always wait around for others to heal us either. Sometime, ours is a road that is personal and only God will be there for us, but when He does send the little moments to remind us that He is there . . . we can’t forget to thank Him for those reminders.
He loves us. He loves you when you are face down in a massage chair crying tears and missing a life you once had. He loves you even when you think you know what is best for yourself. He loves you when you feel confident that, even though you’ve gone through hell, you will fight your way out. He loves you when you are broken and on your knees in your closet. He loves you when you are rattling off demands about what you will find acceptable in your future, and He loves you even when you are trying to plan your life without His help.
He doesn’t ask us to be perfect, but God does ask us to carry on through our imperfect lives.
We cannot fight His timing. I was in no way in any shape to start looking at online profiles. I didn’t go looking online because I felt I was ready to find love, but I was guided to a place where two blue eyes waited to help me heal.
He will send you whispers of His love; He will send you earthly Angels to write you messages that will help you find peace. Don’t try to heal yourself alone. Watch for the signs flashing in your face, and for the silent peace that comes to your heart when you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Healing a life that was once broken, is not impossible. With Jesus Christ as the foundation of your path to healing, you will find a way. He can guide you there.
He believes in you, and in the peace you seek. Only He can send you along the road to help you heal, and His plan is always going to be greater than your own. Only He can direct you to the hidden blue eyes waiting to help you on your road to peace.