January 24, 2014

A dream of hope


To truly forgive, we must let go of all feelings of contention and no longer harbor ill feelings towards someone we feel has wronged us. To repent, we must not only right our wrongs with the people whom we have hurt, but we must also make right with God those things for which we are asking to be forgiven. Forgiveness and repentance were two words I had heard a million times in my life. I had even studied them in depth in books and in scripture. But until I had to apply them in context, for myself, I had no idea of the impact and power of their weight on my soul. At the beginning of this tragedy, I thought forgiveness of all parties involved would merely come as a moment when I could check the “forgiveness” category off a list . . . and all would feel right again. I even walked around for a long time pretending in my mind, that I had forgiven each of them, and that it would never be a serious issue for me. I didn’t know how wrong I was. Each day since that horrible event has been a step in the process of forgiveness and a series of moments that have taught me how to apply the Atonement of Jesus Christ in my life.

I not only faced the pain of having to forgive, but I had also allowed darkness to creep inside of me, for which I had to truly repent. Furthermore, I had regrets for things I wish I had done . . . and should have done before the tragedy. Moments when I should have been braver and acted on the fears inspiring me to dig deeper to find answers. Instead of following those promptings, I allowed my emotions and insecurities to keep me from bringing to light the things that could have helped my family.

I had so many moments that played over and over in my mind . . . so many regrets of things left unsaid, and worse, moments when I should have just shut my big fat mouth and not said some of the things I said out of fear. Just as Emmett hadn’t always been the perfect husband . . . I hadn’t always done the right thing, or said the right things as his wife. That truth was hard to face, especially after he was gone. There were many wasted days spent racking my brain about how I could have done things differently. And many lonely nights filled with tears, begging Heavenly Father to forgive me for my imperfections in my marriage. Though I have come to feel peace with the truth that his death didn’t happen because of me, and that his choosing to have an affair was not my fault or a reaction to anything I did or did not do, it has nonetheless been hard not to put the blame on myself and my imperfections as his wife . . . whether real or imagined.

Forgiving a man who would never be able to ask for my forgiveness was like living in a room with no windows . . . but being asked to use the light of the moon to see. I had put my entire energy into finding harmony in our marriage, and now that I was only left with myself . . . all I could do was make ME whole again. I tossed and turned, knowing that forgiveness would have to come for me in a form that I had never before experienced. Forgiveness, to me, had always meant that you say you are sorry, they say they are sorry, and you forgive each other and move on. Now it was just me. Nobody lying next to me in my bed to lean over and tell me how sorry he was for the mess he had left me to clean up and all the pain he had caused me. He wasn’t even there to tell me how I could have been a better person . . . or wife for him.

So, one night after everyone had gone back to their own lives . . . as I lay in bed alone, I prayed for a shimmer of hope . . . a moment or a means to find the peace I needed to forgive him.

That night I had a dream. All around me were piles of something white. As I got closer to them, I could see that they were all letters. They went on for miles and miles, like the ocean. I just stared at them unaware of why they were all there. As I reached out my hand to pick up one of them . . . all of the sudden Emmett was standing next to me. His eyes looked somber. He had a tear trickling down his face. He leaned in and spoke into my ear. He said, “They are all from me, Ash. … It is everything I should have said, everything I didn’t say, and everything I am sorry for.” I stood frozen, staring at him, not knowing what to say. I looked out at all the letters. They looked as though they went on forever, and they stacked up higher than a building. I couldn’t even see an end. I turned back towards him to ask him all of the questions that had been weighing on me . . . but he was gone.

Why would he leave? Couldn’t he just stay and read them to me? My eyes searched for him up and down the mountains of envelopes . . . but the more I searched the horizon, the more I realized he wasn’t there. I began to panic. Why would he just say those few words and then abandon me again? Didn’t he know I needed him to answer so many of my questions? Didn’t I deserve just a few more minutes of his time? I stood there for a long time, trying to figure out why he had left. Eventually, my heart stopped racing and I calmed myself down and decided to just start reading.

I picked up the first letter. I slowly tore open the envelope. … “My Dearest Ashlee, I am sorry that you are alone. I am sorry that I am gone. You have no idea how much I wish I was there with you.” Next letter. … I opened it a little faster, craving to read his next words. “I am sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me the most.” By now, I was racing to open each letter, “I wish I would have known that my choices would have caused us so much pain . . . I didn’t mean to hurt you.” “I am sorry you are doing it all by yourself.” Next. “I should have been true to you. You deserved my whole heart . . . but I didn’t save it for you.” “I miss you.” “Please don’t let your fear of our past keep you from living your life.” “Please let yourself move forward with faith.” “I wish I would have cherished my family.” “I wish I would have come home a little earlier every night.” “I wish you could feel the regret I have so you could see how much I am hurting for the things I put you through.” “I wish I would have laughed more.” “Please help our kids remember the ‘me’ you fell in love with.” “Please help others who are where I was in life so they can learn from my mistakes.” “I am sorry I lied.” “I am sorry I abandoned all the truth that I once knew.” “I am sorry I didn’t just tell you everything and make it right.” “I wish I had known that was my last Christmas . . . I would have spent more time with you.” “I wish I would have been more engaged when Tytus was born, that I wouldn’t have kept texting and leaving you alone in the hospital.” “I wish I could see Tytus take his first steps, Teage play football, the twins have their first date, Kaleeya play with her Doggy Doggy.” “I wish I hadn’t gone on that trip before I died.” “I am sorry I involved Teage in my lies . . . the way he is suffering now is not only because I am gone, it is because of what I did.” “Please tell my story to others so no one else has to feel the anguish that is torturing me.” “I am sorry you feel worthless . . . I wish I would have showed you how priceless you are to me.” “I wish I would have made more promises and never broken them.” “I wish I could hold you and take away your pain.” “Ashlee, please help the kids be strong. They need you. You are all they have now.” “Please live a life you will be proud of.” “Please know that I love you.” “I wish I could do it all over again. I would have put you all first.”

Mountains of words I needed to hear—all night long. I climbed the peaks of letters and soaked in every phrase. All the things I was begging to hear the night he died, all the things I wish he would have said. Though I still will never actually hear the words from his mouth, that dream has brought me so much peace. It has been a pillar of love in the healing and forgiving process, which have been required for my journey. I know it was just a dream, but at that point in my healing, for me it was a powerful vision.

We all have mountains to climb. Sometimes we have to climb to the highest peaks before we can find the answers to our prayers. I have felt the mountains of regret . . . but that night, I was blessed to reach a summit of words filled with peace. Each letter was like a weight being lifted off of me.

I had been wronged on so many levels. I had craters of pain that ran deep inside of my soul. But I loved Emmett and I loved my Heavenly Father for carrying me when I could not stand. I had to let it go and carry on. That I knew now without a doubt.

I had to be strong for my little children, who would soon be going back to school and facing the world. They were going to have their own journeys in life. Emmett wouldn’t be able to see any of it, as part of our family here on earth. I had to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other . . . and carry on, and I felt grateful to be the one here with them through it all.

Forgiveness is not easy, yet it is required of us to forgive all men. My internal checklist of forgiveness did not end that night, just like it didn’t end on my knees in my closet when Emmett died. These were merely the first steps in a series of bleachers I had yet to climb. My heart and soul still had miles to run before they would catch up . . .  but it was a sweet, tender mercy to read the words I had been longing to hear.

Heavenly Father knows that sometimes our pinnacles are greater than we can handle alone. That is why he sent us a Savior. I didn’t have to carry around this pain. It was not mine to bear all by myself. There will always be a burden around each of our necks in one way or another. There will always be another hill to climb before we can reach the peace at the end of the road. Our journeys can sometimes feel unbearable. We might feel like we have been abandoned, overlooked, or that we are insignificant or alone. We are never alone.

I know that every word in those letters was not just a gift from Emmett, it was a blessing from my Heavenly Father, who knew exactly what I was feeling. He had been there before I was, and now He was there for ME. I know He had been watching me and wishing He could take away my pain. He cannot take away our pain . . . but He will give us little glimmers of His love. He will send us blessings in those moments that will be the most valuable for us. For me, my hope came in envelopes stamped with love from all the Heavenly beings who were cheering me on, and I knew now, that even Emmett believed in me. That dream was the beginning of a journey that I now knew I wasn’t taking alone.


21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Our family prays for you every single day. Thank you for your wonderful words.

Lori said...

I was just telling my hair dresser about your blog today, and how amazing you are. I stated that I wasn't sure how on earth you would ever be able to forgive the three parties involved in your tragedy. I hope I never have to find out just how weak I am, because I'm pretty sure I could not do what you have been able to do. However, I am grateful that you are finding peace, and I know the letters were a gift from God. When you wrote about forgiving Rob, my thoughts were (selfishly!) "he did you a favor~you deserve so much better." However, when I look at your situation realistically, I know that you can't just stop loving someone, because they have wronged you. Hate the sin~love the sinner. I know that you and your children NEEDED the Emmett you fell in love with and hoped to have back. Thank you for sharing your strength and testimony with others. I hope you are finding it therapeutic for yourself as well. I have to ask, did you journal some of these "blogs" before, or are these memories surfacing now?

Whitney said...

Hi Ashlee--I'm so glad I found your blog. I watch Dateline pretty regularly, and after seeing the one with you on it, I've thought about you off and on since then. I always had hoped you were happy, that you had joy and hope back in your life. What a beautiful, tender mercy to have such a dream. Thank you for sharing your journey of utilizing the Atonement to the fullest. It's truly an honor to read how Christ's Atonement is being so actively applied.

Brennon and Lindsey said...

I just heard about your blog yesterday. I have read all your post and watched dateline. I am so grateful that I found this. Thank you for having the courage to open yourself up and share your testimony. I have seen and felt satans power in my own family. I know that there is true evil. I also know the Lord has prepared a way through the atonement to have hope and faith in our hearts again. I wish the best for you and your sweet little family. Those children will be blessed in ways you can't imagine. My husband has struggled with addiction, things have gotten pretty bad in the past. I had to cling to my Heavenly father so many times in so many dark moments. He is aware of everything. He loves you and your children. Its such a blessing to have that knowledge. Thanks again for strengthening me and so.many others.

Tauscha said...

Ashlee,

Everyday you post part of your story, I learn something amazing. You have truly become one of my heroes (heroines)! My logical brain says that I couldn't have done what you have been able to do... But my spiritual convictions remind me that I believe in the same loving Heavenly Father that you do and that He has sustained me always, as he has you. They remind me of my daily need to understand the full power of the Atonement and what that means when I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. The Atonement's application in our lives is infinite... You remind me I need to apply it daily in my personal circumstances.

I am sure that you will be flooded with messages, emails, and posts from supporters everywhere. But the little voice that won't leave my head is telling me that I need to acknowledge the blessing you have already been to me. You are beautiful, gifted, and talented! Thank you for sharing!

Captain and First Officer said...

Certainly not just a dream, but a tender mercy from Heaven!

Anonymous said...

Ashlee--your writing is truly inspiring. I can't thank you enough for sharing your powerful story. My sister went through the suicide of her husband in 2011 and as I read your posts I can't help but think of her and the similarities of your lives. I hope someday she will be able to write some things down too. Our Heavenly Father sure does watch over you and pours out blessings upon you. You are such an amazing woman. Please keep writing.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad Heavenly Father gave you this tender mercy. Thank you for sharing your story with the world, youre an inspiration.

Janeal said...

Your words are so incredibly powerful. Thank you for your courage in sharing your story, I have no doubt the ripple effects of the things you have overcome will strengthen and give hope, inspiration and encouragement to many others who are going through hard things in their lives. May you and your sweet children continue to be blessed with peace beyond your own.

Anonymous said...

So powerful. Thank you for sharing your amazing experience and testimony.

Ashlee and Shawn said...

So I started a blog not long after. It was mainly events and anger bursts, and not anything worth sharing with anyone but my therapist. So those notes have helped me be able to step back to that particular day, but mainly I just sit down and start typing and everything falls out of my head. Other people remind me of things that I did and said, and a few times I have memories that have come to me in dreams.

Anonymous said...

I also wanted to tell you that I have been following your blog and find your words so inspiring! Thank you so much for sharing your story and spiritual insights. I have been blessed with these vivid spiritual dreams a handful of times in my life as well and feel that they are indeed tender mercies of the Lord.
My husband's father suffered with addiction which resulted in an affair. They slowly and painfully mended their marriage but I have feared the same thing happening in my own marriage. My husband and I have been talking about your story and really opened up our communication regarding fidelity in marriage. I feel so much closer to him and secure in my marriage due to the heartfelt feelings you have shared which has given us the ability to be able to walk in your shoes a bit. We are praying for your sweet family and children.

Unknown said...

I can see how this blog and your story can and will assist others to awaken to make the changes necessary to come back to their marriage. The atonement is real and it helps people do and especially feel things that are super human. Through the atonement it is possible to forgive what feels like the unforgivable. I get you and admire your courage for writing your story. You have beat satan again today! Right on!!

Anonymous said...

Ashlee, our stories are so similar. My new husband tells me I should write a book about my life... Thank you for sharing.

Jessica Fluckiger said...

I stumbled upon your blog tonight, and have sat weeping at my table while reading post after post. My heart aches for what you have lost, and for the suffering in your family. I am so happy that peace is beginning to come, even in little ways. I will pray every day for your little family. I wish we were neighbors. . . .

Anonymous said...

"Please help others who are where I was in life to learn from my mistakes."

Ashlee, Thank you, thank you for writing this blog. Every time I read, it strengthens my conviction and has helped / is helping me be a better man, husband, and father. I think of your story and words frequently and I pray daily for you and your family. Don't ever forget that YOU are a blessing Heavenly Father has sent to help so many of us.

Melissa said...

What an amazing gift! Definitely more than just a dream. I believe answers and spiritual experiences definitely come through dreams in a very blessed once in a while!
What a beautiful treasure for your children and others to read. I was so touched and sobbed all the way through this post. Thanks for touching our hearts.

Lori said...

You're amazing!

Crystal said...

This is so beautiful, as is your entire story. None of it would be beautiful without the faithful perspective you have, however. Without hope and love, without Christ, it would only be a tragic and sad story. Though still so very heart wrenching, it is full of the happiness and hope we can have. Love to you all, even Emmett, I'm so sorry his path ended in sadness.

Anonymous said...

I divorced my ex 13 years ago. He is terrible to me every time we have to talk about anything regarding our 3 sons. We were married in the temple but then he chose a different lifestyle and got very bitter and angry. He has asked to have his records removed from the church and he never misses an opportunity to try and turn our 3 now teenage sons against the church. I am constantly trying everyday to forgive him and some days I can actually forget how terrible he has been to me and the kids but then within a day or two he does something horrible to one of the boys again or says something to make me feel that I'm a horrible mom that can't do anything right. You are so blessed to have gotten your miracle to help you forgive. I'm wondering if I will ever be able to forgive and if the torment and negative influence will ever stop hurting and affecting my boys so much. This week has been an exceptionally hard one and discovering your blog this week has helped. It also helps that my sister knows you so I feel a special connection to you through my sister and I know how honest your story is and how sincere your heart is.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say, i watched the story on dateline, your husband was not a bad man, he was a man who made a mistake and got mixed up with the wrong woman. He never got a chance to tell you he was sorry or try to repair the damage to your family, because he paid the ultimate price for his mistake - his life. He never gets a chance to repair his reputation or his family, but if he knew the consequences that were to come to him and to you and his kids, he likely would never have done what he did. But like alot of people in this world, he made a mistake. Some get a chance to undo their mistakes and others do not. Very sad situation

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