July 11, 2014
I woke up one morning in a funk. Nothing in particular had sparked my foul mood, but I could not seem to stomp it out. It was a normal day. The little kids and I played and cleaned the house while the big kids were at school. I tried hard to ignore the dark gloom that seemed to be tugging at me, and I carried on with my normal routine with it constantly hanging over me.
As morning turned into afternoon, I got a call that brought a smile to my face. Rob had had his bail revoked, and was heading back to jail. It was a miracle!!! I was giddy as I went about the rest of my day. Finally, something was going my way, and he was going back to where he had belonged all along. He had killed my husband and he deserved to be back in jail. Just knowing I no longer had the possibility of running into him on the streets brought peace to my soul, but on an even deeper level, I was happy justice was being served.
The alarm on my phone soon sounded to remind me to go pick up the big kids from school. I loaded the little ones in my car and drove to the school. I couldn’t wait to tell the twins about Rob’s new “home.” I knew it would calm some of their fears, as it had mine.
As I drove, I thought back to the nights they had tapped me on my shoulder to ask about “the bad guy.” I thought of the hours spent holding them as they cried in my arms about the father they would never again see, and about their fear of the man who had taken him from them. I thought of their whispers in the silence about a stranger they would never meet and never be able to forgive for the pain he had caused. I thought about all that Rob did to deserve his time in jail. I was happy he was getting locked up again. I was angry for the punishments my children had been forced to endure because of him, and I was grateful that the justice system was sending him back to the life he deserved.
I pulled up to the school. I could see the twins walking toward our meeting place. I jumped out of the car and with a skip in my step I ran toward them. Once their hands were in mine, I kneeled down to whisper the news. “Girls, so you know how scared you have been since you found out all those months ago that the man who shot Daddy was getting out of jail? Well . . . guess what? Today . . . he . . . he made some choices that got his bail taken away . . . and so, he has to go back to jail!” I was grinning and excited for my babies who had cried through all those nights, worried this man would somehow come into their rooms. I was happy to tell them that the man who had shot and killed their dad was back in jail, locked up. I was proud that I got to deliver this declaration of their safety to them.
They didn’t look up; both of them still stared at the ground and didn’t say a word. Almost in desperation to see their excitement, I announced it again. “Girls . . . doesn’t that make you happy to know that justice is being served . . . that he . . . is . . . in jail?” I tried so hard to get them to make eye contact with me. “I thought this might make you guys happy that the man who killed Daddy is not going to be out of jail anymore. They are putting him back in jail! . . . So . . . he . . . is . . . not . . .out . . . of jail anymore.” Still no response.
A few seconds went by, and finally a sound came from my silent crowd. Bailey burst into tears, and sobbed “But what about HIS kids mom? They still have a chance to have a dad. If he goes back to jail, they don’t get a dad . . . just like us.” I was dumbfounded. This little girl I’d held in the night as she had sworn up and down she would never forgive “the bad guy,” was now in tears for him?
Bostyn finally looked up at me. “Mom, Bailey and I have been talking a lot about this,” she said as a small tear fell from her eyes, “and we . . . we will forgive him now. We just . . .What about his kids? They might need their dad. If we could have Daddy back, we would . . . but they still can. If he goes back to jail, then all of us lost our dads.”
My heart dropped. All the excitement that had gotten me through the day quickly faded. Because of my bitterness and desire for revenge, I had spent my afternoon excited that Rob had been punished for breaking the rules and was getting sent back to jail. I had anticipated that the moment I told my children about it would be healing and uplifting for them, but it wasn’t. Not because they knew him personally, or would benefit from his remaining free . . . but because they had learned to have compassion.
It wasn’t until my two six-year-olds took my hand and taught me about empathy and forgiveness that I realized how wrong my celebration had been. I had spent months building up more hate and bitterness, while my daughters had taken those same months to find love and compassion for a man who had wronged them—a lesson, I had taught them . . . but had forgotten to apply to myself.
What a humbling moment I had that day. I was not the exception to the lessons of truth I had preached. Maybe Rob had hurt me, and maybe his poor choices had gotten him where he was . . . but I had to learn to let it go. Though his actions had shattered my family, it was my hatred that was killing my heart. I had to become like my little daughters: patient, compassionate, humble, and full of love . . . even for the man who had killed their father and made me a widow.
We are all here on earth together. We are going to wrong each other and cause others to feel pain. Sometimes we will be the one in the wrong, and other times we will be the ones who are wronged. Does that mean we can’t still have compassion for each other? I learned that afternoon that forgiveness is real, not just in words . . . but in our hearts. Empathy is possible, even through our pain.
My twins walked in Rob’s shoes that day, and felt the loss his family was going to have to live with. I wasn’t that strong, but their reminder of empathy was not just enlightening . . . it was humbling. I was the mother—and yet they were my teachers.
What does it mean to walk in others’ shoes? It means actually trying to feel what they feel, and trying to see what they see. It means taking a step outside of ourselves to see another point of view. As adults, we have trained ourselves to think that our way is the best way. We have become stuck in what we can see, and we think that we have the only answers. It usually isn’t easy for us to look at something from a new perspective.
Often, it’s our children who show us what it means to have empathy: empathy for a family member, a friend, a stranger, and even a murderer. They can show us how to see the world while standing in someone else's shoes.
A lesson I had taught a million times with words became real that day. As I walked hand in hand back to my car with my babies, I felt strength from them to develop that empathy myself.
Forgiveness is real. Being able to achieve it is within our reach. Maybe it isn’t as simple as it was for my two little twins, crying tears for the children of a man who had killed their father . . . but if they can do it—so can we.
Have compassion for those who have hurt you. Find love for those who have let you down. Seek to feel empathy for those who need it the most. God will be the ultimate judge. It is Him who will have the final say. We aren’t required to be the judge for anyone . . . but ourselves.
In the Doctrine and Covenants 64:10, we read this commandment from God:
I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
It is a lesson I am still learning, and one that hasn’t come easily for me. To truly forgive, we must have compassion. To have compassion, we must be able to love. And to truly love, we must give God our whole heart. He is the only source of eternal love we will find on this earth. The power He can give us can strengthen all the relationships with which we have been blessed, and can help us develop love for complete strangers, even for those who may have caused us pain.
Jesus Christ has felt your pain. He has counted every tear. He died for you that even you can be forgiven for the wrongs you have committed. Even you can be forgiven for the times when you have been too full of pride, hatred or anger to forgive.
We may never forget our pain. Sometimes the scars run too deep to completely disappear . . . but we can rise above our pain. The atonement of Jesus Christ truly covers all pain. It diminishes the scars; it eases the burdens. It can bring miracles to our lives.
There is a song I have sung many times in my life. I love it for its simple message.
Greater Miracles by Hilary Weeks
Have you any that are sick? Bring them here, He will heal them.
Have you any that are lame, bent in pain, hurt or yearning?
Bring them all old and young and He will lift them up.
He will make them whole.
And if they put their faith in Him they shall see greater miracles than these.
Have you children who are blind? Bring them here, He will bless them.
He will truly make them see wondrous things when you let them.
Go to Him on bended knee and He will lift them up.
He will make them whole.
And if they put their faith in Him they shall see
Greater miracles than these.
Did you know that He can heal the widow's broken heart?
That His love can change your life, save a world torn apart?
Did you know that He holds the earth and sky at His command?
But when you feel forgiveness come, then you'll understand.
That's the miracle. The greatest miracle.
Do your burdens weigh you down?
Go to Him. He will lift them.
As your brother as your friend, He has love enough for all men.
Trust in Him, take His hand.
And He will lift you up, He will make you whole.
And if you put your faith in Him, you shall see
Greater miracles than these. Greater miracles than these.
The miracle that day was not that Rob was going back to jail. It was that my daughters showed me how to feel empathy. They taught me, by their example, about forgiveness and love. They showed me what true compassion is, and what I could strive to become one day. They reminded me that even the sinners deserve to be set free—maybe not into the world—but from the hatred in our hearts. They showed me that even I, a victim, could find a way to be a survivor.
And that was the miracle . . . the greatest miracle.
Bailey and Bostyn (age 6)
July 5, 2014
Life began to feel normal for a minute. Shawn and I grew
closer, and for a time the past seemed to be so far behind me. I started to
enjoy some of the things I had enjoyed before the tragedy.
One day, Shawn came home with a gym membership for me. I was excited because a few days after the shooting, I had cancelled the gym passes for me, Emmett, and ironically, Kandi. I had not spent much time at the gym earlier, but I had loved the convenience of being able to go there for some down time at night. So having a new membership to a new gym was exciting. I was grateful for the gift.
For a while, I went to the gym off and on randomly. Then one week, I really got into it and went several nights in a row. It felt amazing to be moving my body in a way I hadn’t since long before Tytus was born. It was relaxing and soothing to turn on my video iPod and lose myself in a movie while exercising. I started a movie, which I then continued watching the next day from where I had left off the night before. On the third day, I finished that movie and the next film in my collection began. I didn’t think much of it as the opening song began, and I soon found myself walking on the treadmill to P.S. I Love You! It was a movie I had seen with Emmett for the first time, and one which I had also watched alone not long after his death.
I felt I should turn it off, knowing my emotions might get the best of me, but I kept watching it anyway. It sucked me in. After my time on the treadmill came to an end, I headed to the mats to stretch. I didn’t take my eyes off the screen as I silently did my stretches with the earphones in my ears. As time passed, I was no longer stretching, but was engulfed in the movie. Subtle tears fell down my cheeks as I became more and more enmeshed in the emotion of the film’s message. The main character in the movie had so much in common with me, and yet our stories were so different. She knew exactly what it was like to be a widow, but she also had the knowledge I longed to have: she knew her husband deeply loved her as he took his final breath. She didn’t have all the feelings of regret and betrayal that I still carried, stored inside every part of my soul. When she looked back to the past, she longed to hear her husband’s voice repeating the words of love he had uttered in his last days, while I longed for my husband’s unspoken apology.
My mind traveled back in time to the “P.S I love you!” moment I had experienced in the Walmart parking lot after buying flowers to decorate Emmett’s grave. I almost resented the movie for reminding me of all the other times I hadn’t received such a validation. In my frustration, I realized there was no point staying at the gym to work out because I was wasting my time on thoughts and movies that did nothing for me. I looked at my phone. It was getting late, and I figured I better head for home.
I turned off the movie, secretly hoping to return to it the next time I came back to the gym, but also realizing I shouldn’t do that to myself again. I threw my iPod into my bag and dug around for my keys. I started to stand up to head toward the stairs and something caught my eye. It was a woman who looked really familiar. She looked like she was probably a few years older than me and she was talking to a younger guy, probably in his mid-twenties. He had on a wedding ring and so did she, but it was clear from their conversation that they weren’t married to each other.
I sat there watching in shock as they flirted back and forth with each other. Did she know he was married? Was he aware that she was taken? My blood began to boil. I threw down my bag and pretended to be stretching again. I listened to them for a few minutes and became sick to my stomach. I burst into tears, and silently turned the other way. An inappropriate relationship was taking place just a few feet from me, and there was nothing I could do about it! It was almost as if I was frozen in that corner, unable to get up to spare myself from watching the disgusting scene. From the way the blood boiled in my veins, it was as if I were watching Emmett and Kandi. I wanted to walk up to the man and grab his face, as I had Emmett the night he was killed, and scream all the things I still longed to yell at him. “You have a wife . . . go home . . . and find out what it is about her that you are not seeing. Turn around and walk away from here. Don’t give into this temptation! Go home and show your family all the reasons you choose them!”
I didn’t ever say a word, but huddled in my corner sobbing for a woman who was sitting at home, probably cooking his favorite food, wondering if he would be coming home that night. I shed tears for any babies that man was forgetting as he was being swept away by another woman’s charms.
The irrational part of my brain kept begging me to go over and remind him of all the paths this choice could lead him to, but in an effort to keep myself safe, I remained silent. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I couldn’t stop myself from picturing the woman’s angry husband waiting around the corner.
Soon, I couldn’t take any more torture and I grabbed my bag and ran past them, around the corner, down the stairs, and out to my car. Once inside the car, I sobbed like I had never sobbed before. I cried for all the husbands and wives who have ever felt betrayed. I wept for the heartache that their insecurities could make them believe. I prayed for all the spouses who had been duped into thinking they could live their lies in both lives and not have it affect anyone else. I cried for all the families who had been destroyed because of one partner’s decisions. I cried for my own soul that still sought peace from the pain my husband’s infidelity had brought me. I cried for my babies, who I yearned to protect from hearing the ugly details of the truths from their past. I cried for all the wives, husbands, and children who had felt broken. Yes, I cried for my own family . . . but mainly, I cried for our world.
And that is when the fear set in . . . What if that man had been Shawn? What if all men were the same? What if no matter who I was married to, the ending would always be the same? What if Shawn cheats on me, and one day finds himself dead in a parking lot? What if all marriages are doomed to fail, and I couldn’t survive another one? What if this crazy life I asked Shawn to share with me becomes too much for him and he turns to someone else for comfort? What if I was born to fail?
It was as if a small match had ignited and turned into a raging forest fire, and my hallucinations reached the point of insanity. I sat in the parking lot for a good twenty minutes trying to figure out which way was up.
By the time I got home, it was late. I didn’t say much to Shawn as we turned in for the night and went to sleep.
In my dreams that night, I found Shawn and Kandi in my bed. I woke up in a cold sweat, hardly able to breathe. The next morning, my mind still lingered on the thoughts that had overcome me the night before. I was almost mad at Shawn for the acts he had preformed in my dreams, and just looking at him made me feel angry . . . like he had actually done something wrong.
As he was about to leave for work, he finally questioned my coldness. “Hey . . . are . . . are you okay? You haven’t said much this morning, and I . . . I am worried about you. You doing alright?” I broke. “It was just . . . I had a dream . . . and you and . . . her . . . and I am so mad at you . . . and Kandi . . . you and her . . . were in our bed . . . and I am just disgusted with you this morning for being everything that Emmett was.”
No harsher words had ever been spoken between us. He stared at me and said, “Ash, I’m sorry about your awful dream, but I am not Emmett. I am never going to be Emmett. I am sorry you had that dream, but it isn’t fair for you to hold something against me that isn’t even real. It’s not my fault that Emmett did what he did, and I don’t deserve to be punished for his actions. You have to learn to trust me. Hopefully, some day you will see that not all men are going to cheat.”
I apologized for snapping at him, but in the back of my mind, I was still really mad . . . not specifically at Shawn, but at men in general.
The feeling of disgust I felt towards men lingered with me throughout the morning and by early afternoon, I was again on the verge of a meltdown. I needed answers to the past to try to figure out how to let go of it. I picked up my phone and called the Attorney General’s office to ask a few questions.
We set up an appointment and the next morning, I was driving down to meet her at her office. The whole way there, I could barely swallow because my mouth was so dry. I checked in at the front desk and received a visitor’s name badge. Then, someone escorted me into her office.
I sat down, still fighting back tears. The lump in my throat felt like a hot coal. She asked about the kids, and how we were all doing. I replied with basic answers. She finally got to the point. “Okay, you said on the phone you had a few questions you needed answered. I can’t promise I can answer all of them, but I am willing to try.”
Then out they came, with very few breaths in between. “Well, I am just struggling with a few things. It still doesn’t make any sense. Where did it all begin? With Emmett . . . I mean . . . Was she the only one, or is there any proof that there were other women? Are they sure there was an actual affair or is it just a suspicion? Did it all start out with a porn addiction . . . or was this just a one time thing to further his career? I just . . . it doesn’t make any sense. Why wasn’t I enough for him? Did you find that . . . Did you find any letter that maybe he wrote to Kandi, saying that he just wanted me? Was there evidence as to why he would choose her . . . and not . . . and not us? Was there anything that showed that he knew . . . that he had made a mistake? Did he have other women? Were there other affairs? Do you have any answers for me that can help me let go of all the things I don’t know? I’m trying to figure out how to trust and love again, and I can’t even begin to understand how it all went wrong the first time. And am I just destined to fail again? . . . I wonder that because I don’t even know where it all went wrong . . . and I don’t know when I stopped being enough. And I don’t know how to be enough . . . without figuring out why I wasn’t enough for Emmett.”
By then, I was sobbing uncontrollably, hoping that she was able to understand even a single word of all the words I spewed out. She also had tears in her eyes. I could see that she could feel my pain, and it was apparent that she truly cared about my plight.
I received a lot of answers that day—none which helped increase my trust in men—but many that helped me see that Emmett had been struggling more, and to a greater extent, than I had ever imagined.
There were some facts I learned that did comfort a part of my heart that day. Emmett talked about me a lot in emails. He spoke highly of me to many of his friends. He bragged about the kids. Our attorney told me that day that she truly believed he adored me and loved our children, and that is why he fought so hard to protect us from his secrets. It didn’t change much about our past, but it did brighten my spirits about myself a bit.
Emmett’s soul must have been so tormented. He seemed to know exactly what he wanted, but at the same time, he had no idea. He wanted the life he had created with us, and yet something inside of him was pulling him away from us. He walked down dark roads in his journey, but he also did so much good along the way. But where had it begun? Where was I going to find the facts that helped it all make sense?
I walked out of that office with a lot of the answers I had gone in to seek, and yet . . . I knew nothing. I still didn’t know how to let it all go. I still had no clue as to how I could move past the urge to despise and hate, not only everyone else . . . but myself. I wanted nothing more than to be able to move forward, but my soul was tormenting me by hanging on to the past and the pain that past had caused me.
I never went back to that gym again. Months passed and Shawn continued to patiently pay the monthly fee until the period of my contract had expired. Though he will never understand the struggles I have faced, he has been understanding in those moments when I got lost in them.
To anyone who has ever wondered where to turn when the days get hard, to everyone who has questioned if they are enough, I can promise you that you are not alone in your battle. Searching for answers in the past may not change the future, but it can give you a perspective as to where the problems all began. In my case, I felt that learning where it had all begun to go wrong would help me stop holding all men hostage for the mistakes made by one man. But I didn’t find the answers to those questions, and I still had to learn to move forward.
To anyone who is looking for happiness in the wrong places . . . Stay true to the promises you have made. If you are trapped in a corner feeling yourself slip, get out of that corner! You do not have to go down those paths that will destroy your family, or the life you are living. You do not have to battle with the torment that will lead you astray from everything you have created, or which you hope to have one day. Having an affair may seem like a quick fix to the troubles you are facing, but it will not take away or change those troubles. It may seem like an easy road compared to the one you are on now . . . but I can promise you, that lie will only last so long.
When we come to those crossroads . . . those moments when we decide to continue on the path we are on, or to start down a new one . . . that is the time when we have to make certain that all the “doors” of the past have first been shut. All the relational “doors” behind me had been slammed shut by other people, and it was difficult for me to open new doors when the doors of the past had been locked and prevented me from finding the answers I sought.
Other crossroads are even more critical. The man and woman at the gym that day . . . they were at a different kind of crossroad. They were at a moment of decision. They still had “doors” open in their lives, but they were toying with the idea of opening new ones.
In relationships, and especially in marriage, we cannot open more than one door at a time. We were not meant to have secret doors that we have to hide from our loved ones, and I am sure that anyone who has them, has found their own personal torment in that secret.
If you find yourself in that moment when you are thinking about opening a “door” without first shutting the one behind you . . . please step away for a minute. Think about first time you kissed your husband; ponder on the first time your wife held your hand. Picture the day when you knew for certain you wanted to plan your life around that person. Think about the commitments you have made. Before you reach for that handle for the new and exciting “door”, pray to remember all the reasons you opened the first door to begin with.
Maybe you will find that you need to go home and shut and lock door number one, but maybe you will just remember all the reasons that door was worth loving and fighting for. Maybe you will even see why that door should always be your one and only.
There is not always going to be a tomorrow. Live today with your whole heart. Turn to the people who are waiting at home with your favorite meal just for you. What if today was your last chance to show them you care; what if tomorrow never comes? Now is your time to live true to the relationships in your life. Today is the day to stand up to those choices that will bring you down. Walk a little taller, choose a little more wisely, and let go of the torment that is blinding your path.
Everything begins somewhere, including secrets. Every life has a beginning and an ending. Every relationship has a beginning, but it does not have to end. With love and hard work, relationships can last forever. We were not created to fail. Maybe your past has proven that theory wrong, but it doesn’t mean it is. My marriage to Emmett didn’t have to determine who I was going to be as a wife, and it did not mean that Shawn was going to succumb to the same trials.
Each of us is unique. Maybe you have been hurt in your past. Maybe you have learned to withhold your trust from anyone and anything. Don’t spend your life blocking out everyone because of a fear of failure. Maybe you have lost or maybe you have loved and received nothing in return. Don’t stop. Love is powerful. It has no end and no beginning.
For everyone who has lost at love . . . you are not alone. Don’t spend your life dwelling on it . . . because that will not bring it back. You may not ever learn where the destruction began, but you can start again. Begin a new chapter. Losing love does not mean that you lost your ability to do it.
Whenever you find your self crying in your car for the world, remember that the world is only as strong and as good as each one of us in it. We do not have to fail. Even if our marriages don’t last, people around us die, or a dream we were living ends . . . it doesn’t mean we have failed.
I wish I would have known back then what I have now learned, which is that we were born for greatness. Greatness doesn’t come through ease and perfection. Greatness comes as we stand tall when others do not. Greatness comes to us as we get back up when we fall. Greatness isn’t born . . . it is made. Greatness is found as we stand tall . . . but sometimes even more when we walk away.
If you find yourself standing at a crossroad today, don’t take the wrong path because you have come to believe that you were born to fail. No one was sent to earth to fail. We are here to find out who we were before we came, and who we can become, and where it is we want to be when we die.
Maybe the past has let you fall, but the only time you fail . . . is when you believe you cannot get back up and start again. You were born to stand. Stand tall and stand true . . . you were born for greatness.
June 28, 2014
The trial date had been set. With the knowledge that it would be just months away I felt our life, in our blended family, would be able to start for real once it was complete. I constantly longed for the day when I could walk in that courtroom and let my voice be heard, and I truly believed that our new life would really begin once it was over.
Since our marriage, all that I thought would change in our “new life” did not. Every morning I would sit on my bathroom counter and rehearse the words I would say at the trial in my mind as I applied my makeup. I still continued to scream at Rob, Kandi, and Emmett when driving alone in the quiet solitude of my car. I still had triggers that would ignite and throw me back in time. I still struggled with anxiety about leaving my house. I was insecure in my marriage, and in the role of being a wife. However, in my heart . . . I truly thought that the single moment the trial ended so would all of the issues in myself, and in our family.
We swept a lot of our adjustment problems as a blended family under the rug, as to keep our selves stable for the pending trial. We knew it was our biggest issue, so any others that would arise seemed to be so small. We had a few small arguments about the kids, but for the most part it seemed I was still running on autopilot in an effort to make it to court. Anything else was petty and trivial, and therefore left unresolved and pushed aside.
Soon the trial was only a few weeks away. I craved the moment when I would get to read my victim statement and let that courtroom hear my pain. The silence I had forced upon myself was ready to break in that courtroom and I almost counted down the days when I could look Rob in the eye and tell him how his actions broke my family.
One morning the big kids were at school and the little ones and I were at the grocery store. We were almost done with our list when my phone rang, a blocked number . . . pit in my stomach. It was the victim witness coordinator, “Ashlee, hey . . . so the . . . the trial . . . they are going to have to move the date. We had all planned it being next month, but they are thinking they need another six months or so for everyone to collect more evidence and get all the tests back, like the gunpowder residue reports and the bullet wound specialists, and all the angles of the evidence. I know this is going to be hard for you to continue to wait for, but I hope you will understand why they . . . they just need more time.”
We talked for a while about what this delay would mean for me. She was very thoughtful as she spoke and reassured me that they were working as hard as they could to find the truth in every aspect of the case. The truth, a desire I needed just as much as them. I felt confident in waiting as we hung up the phone and I continued in my shopping.
I walked around the store with almost no emotion, feeling brave and strong. I unloaded my groceries out of the cart and robotically bagged each one. After paying the clerk and getting all of my sacks back in the cart I could feel my tears trying to find their way out. I had a panic raging, but it was a new form of emotion. Not a panic of “is this ever going to end” like I thought it might be, it was like that phone call drilled a hole in my heart. It was a deeper despair than any I had ever felt.
Waiting longer for the trial was going to destroy me; I could feel it. Though the outcome wouldn’t make a difference in my life, waiting for it created space for another void of loss to grow inside of me. I longed for that trial; I yearned to hear the full story and put all the missing pieces together in my head. I needed to hear from all the specialists, and witnesses . . . what they had seen and heard. I hoped that their stories would help feel in the gaps in my own.
As I pushed my cart full of food and children out to the car tears silently streamed down my face. Six more months until I could look Rob in the eye and ask him why? More mornings that I would try to apply mascara through my tears. Months left to wait to read my victim statement that now played like an old screeching record inside of my heart.
My despair sank deep in my soul. My life felt heavy as I drove home from the store and unloaded the groceries. Everything around me looked dark.
For the next few days I was a stone cold zombie. I didn’t even know how to feel. I felt so disconnected from my family and especially from Shawn. I tried so hard to push away the gloom, but nothing seemed to make me want to smile. I didn’t want to wallow in it, but I didn’t know how I was going to let it go.
That next weekend was the Relief Society broadcast for LDS General Conference. A few friends invited me to go, but in my self pitied gloom I told them I had other plans. I didn’t really have anything else going on, except for my own personal pity party.
As the afternoon began to turn into evening on Saturday, the day of the broadcast, something kept urging me to let go of my bitterness and go with my friends. I fought it all day long. Shawn asked me all day what was wrong but I never opened up to him. After asking me what was wrong for the twentieth time I told him what I was struggling with. I was feeling too dark to attend the broadcast. As those words left my lips, I knew what I needed to do. I headed to my closet and threw on a skirt.
I walked into the living room where my family was playing. I could see their beautiful eyes, and I could hear their tender voices, but I could not feel an ounce of their love. They all gave me a kiss and I headed out to the garage and got into my car.
As the door shut I could again feel darkness sink a little deeper inside of me. I offered a small prayer, “Heavenly Father, I know it is so simple compared to the past but this date change for the trial is weighing on my heart. I can’t seem to feel anything but utter despair. Somehow I am waiting to take my next breath when this trial gets over, and the thought of waiting to breath for another six months is going to kill me. I . . . I just . . . I need to know that you are still here. I feel so alone, I am so scared, and though this murder trial isn’t going to bring Emmett back, I feel like . . . it has to come to help me heal. We aren’t living life as we wait, so why can’t it just be now, so I can let it go. I can’t feel anything, I can’t even feel the spirit today. Everything is like a black fog and I am scared that if I go another six months living like this, I am not going to be able to feel anything ever again. I just, I feel like, maybe somewhere along the way . . . you don’t remember I am still here . . . I feel so forgotten.”
My car pulled into the parking lot, and my prayer was cut short. I looked into the review mirror. I quickly swiped my fingers under each eye in hopes that no one would notice I had been bawling like a baby.
Everyone was still eating their dinner in the gym. I walked in. I could see the friends who had invited me all sitting around a table in the back. I passed my sister in law and all of her cute friends. She came over and gave me a big hug and asked me to sit with them. I already felt guilty that I had told my friends that I had other plans and I had showed up any way, so I decided to go sit with them.
After most of the girls had finished eating they headed into the chapel to get seats. It was just one other girl and me left at our table. I didn’t know her that well and hadn’t had a chance to talk much with her. She asked a few questions about me, and then about the trial. Like a broken dam had just burst I spewed out parts of my story that I had hardly told anyone. The single world, “trial” sparked in me all the anger I had about the postponed date and my new knowledge that I had to keep my pain bottled up even longer. She just stared at me in complete shock. She listened for a few more minutes. It felt good to open up and let out some of my pain.
I walked into the broadcast just as they were about to say the opening prayer. My sudden spew of emotion at the dinner table hadn’t brought me any more feeling of peace, but a darker despair that seemed to be swirling even harder around my mind.
The speakers began. I listened, still without feeling, to each of their words. Hoping for a time when I could go back and reread their truths, I tried hard to take notes for myself for later. One talked about what she wants her granddaughters to know someday. Another speaker spoke about charity. The last woman talked about holding fast to our promises that we make.
The last speaker was announced. Uchtdorf! He had always been one of my favorites, so I was excited on this day of feeling emotionally numb to hear his words.
He began. He said he was excited to be speaking and how honored he was to be there. Then his talk began.
As he spoke about the tiny “forget me not” flower and picturing it surrounded by all the other large flowers in the garden, like it was pleading with the Lord, “Forget me not, O Lord” my ears perked up. The very plea I had just cried to Heavenly Father in my car. Just like that tiny flower, I had prayed for a glimpse that I was not forgotten.
Then he spoke about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s “golden ticket”. He taught that when we wait around for a golden ticket, we miss the simple pleasure of opening up a candy bar and eating the chocolate. His entire talk he spoke about truths I had always known, yet somehow that week I had forgotten. He bore his testimony about how not one of us are forgotten to the Lord. Every minute of his talk was a like I was the flowering “forget me not” opening up and standing tall, being proud to be a tiny little flower amongst the beautiful roses. He reminded me that though my problems were overwhelming and seemed impossible, I was not forgotten. All the anger in my heart quickly faded with each word that he spoke.
I knew that his words were not just for me because I wasn’t even supposed to be there that day, but I had come that night just for them. His soul spoke to mine, as he reminded me that I was not forgotten.
The trial was not what was going to bring me to peace. It was not my “golden ticket” to happiness. The only golden ticket that would free me from my pain was Jesus Christ. Maybe the people in the courts had forgotten how this delay would affect me, but I was not forgotten by Him. Just because the moment I was waiting for had been delayed, didn’t mean I was alone. For the first time that week, I felt His love surround me and I knew without a doubt I was not forgotten.
Just like the tiny forget me not flower, God knew right where I was no matter how small I felt. Heavenly Father wanted me to remember Him as my “golden ticket”, and not seek for one in my life.
There is no “golden ticket” that will come our way. There is no golden ticket in forgiveness. Even when we feel have we done all that we can to forgive others, another opportunity may come our way to learn a different angle of the virtue. We may also find that all the forgiveness we have done, has been just the tip of the ice berg on our journey to true forgiveness. One moment of acknowledging a road to forgiveness is not necessarily the “golden ticket” to the end of its path.
There is no worldly golden ticket that can free us from our pain. No amount of money, clothes, cars, or houses will bring eternal happiness. Not even another person’s words or admiration can free us from the pain inside of us. The false “golden tickets” that the world will send us, may bring temporary relief . . . but they will not heal our hearts.
There is no golden ticket or free pass from fear. Fear and anxieties are real. I was reminded just the other night, that even when I think I have fear under control, it can find a new angle to try to destroy me.
There is no “golden ticket” from any of the hardships we will face. There is no grand event that will teach us all we need to know. Every day is part of our test of mortality, every hour a new lesson on forgiveness, patience, humility, and love. Don’t spend your life waiting for your “golden ticket” of happiness when there are wonderful things all around you.
I couldn’t feel my family's love, and it was right there in front of me. I was waiting around for the trial to come and be my “golden ticket”. I thought it’s magnificent power would heal my broken heart, close my open wounds, uncloud my dark mind, and help me let go of my pain. And as I waited for it, I lost the moments that were passing me by.
No day is going to be your “golden ticket”. All of us are waiting for something: to be married; to be a parent; to graduate high school; to move to our dream house; to be free of health issues; to be done with college; to lose weight; to not be held back by fear of the past. The lists of things we wait for are never ending. What if today was our last day, and the only thing we had left was right now? I bet as we looked back over our lives, we would wish that we would have spent today enjoying all the little pieces of chocolate that were staring us in the face, instead of opening each wrapper hoping it held the secret ticket to our happiness.
If we don’t enjoy what we have right now, we may never find happiness. It is easy to wait around for your dreams to come true, but not as easy seeing the dreams that are already being played. There is a golden ticket that can bring eternal happiness. It is the knowledge of the truth that lies in each of us. We all have the potential to find the light of the world inside our hearts: the truth that we are not alone; the truth that even though we seem small . . . we are never forgotten.