January 8, 2014


I think I was in shock literally from the moment those words hit my ears until long after the funeral a week later. There are parts of days of which I literally have no memory whatsoever. Living in shock is an out-of-body experience. Sometimes looking back, I am still not entirely sure if that was even really me, or a bad movie.

I do remember the clock ticking closer and closer to seven a.m. that next morning and dreading hearing footsteps on the stairs. I knew my children would wake up as usual . . . like on a normal morning. I knew I had a big job to do. By the time morning came, my house was filled with family and friends. Many of them had received texts or calls in the middle of their sleep, and got in their cars to drive hours through the night.

When the sounds of my little ones did come, my body hurt. How could any mother do this? I was frozen inside. All five kids came and sat down on the couch, in the same place where I had sat just hours before. But this time, I was on the other end. This time, I was the one looking around the room trying hard not to make eye contact with them.

Surrounded by family and with the help of my bishop, we taught them about Heaven. I held baby Tytus in my arms and we talked about how he had just come down from Heaven to join our family just six short weeks earlier. My bishop wore a glove on his hand. We told them that there had been an accident and that—just like when you take a glove off your hand—Daddy Emmett’s spirit had gone back to that place from which Tytus had just come. Daddy was no longer on this earth any more. He was now with Heavenly Father and Jesus.

Their eyes pierced my soul. I could see utter despair and panic stirring in their little minds. The oldest of the twins began to cry hysterically. The other kids didn’t move. They just sat there looking at me with the same look I felt . . . “What are we supposed to do now?”

Night came again. I had now been awake for forty-eight hours, and my body showed no signs of letting sleep set in ever again. I remember crying so hard that night in my mother’s arms that I don’t think one ounce of liquid was left in my entire body. She just held me while I sobbed. I would stop and punch my pillow as if maybe it could take all the pain out of my body. Then I would sob some more. It seemed that every emotion was attacking my heart. The sadness would hit . . . then the anger would take over again. It was like a ship being tossed to and fro in the ocean; back and forth. The easy part was the anger, because then I didn’t have to miss him. I tried hard to keep my mind there . . . focusing on just those last months we had experienced together. The anger allowed every good memory to disappear and only the pain to have a voice. I felt safe when the anger had the power. It was when the despair would roll in that it was almost more than I could bear. Memories of the life we had created. Thoughts about the dreams we had once shared; reality that I now had to make those dreams come true without him. Sleep finally came, and within what seemed like minutes, I was awake again.

The next morning is one that I remember as if it all happened yesterday. I know at some point I was awake in the night to feed the baby, but the only thing that woke me up that morning was the muffled sounds of my children’s voices. It was a faint noise, and I couldn’t make out anything they were saying.

My heart was racing and I felt out of my body. I was foggy and shaky, and I felt like the world around me should have no right to keep turning. The morning before, I had sat my children down to tell them that their dad had been shot and killed. This morning, I had nothing left. I peeled myself out of bed and opened my bedroom door. The house was dark, but I could see the outline of my four oldest children sitting around the kitchen table with a big box right in the center. They were frantically writing on papers and throwing them inside the box. “What are you guys doing?” I asked. My oldest daughter, Bailey, paused for only a second, long enough to look up at me and say, “Mom . . . yesterday there was a tsunami in Japan. Grandma told us that lots of little boys and girls lost their moms and dads . . . and we are sending them this package to help them know that they are loved and that we are praying for them.”

I grabbed some of their letters and, with tears rolling down my face, I read a few out loud: “I know you feel sad, but Heavenly Father loves you. We are praying for you.” “You will see your dad again someday.” “I wish I could take the pain away.” “You are loved.”

These children were in the darkest hour they had ever known. . . and yet they weren’t sitting around feeling sorry for themselves. How could this be? They were reaching out to comfort others who were in pain. That day, they were a light for me.

That moment and that box were one of the greatest blessings of strength I could have ever received. That was the moment when I knew I had little Angels in my home to help lead the way for me to find a higher road and press on until we could breath again.

For anyone else who has ever felt Angels –seen or unseen— standing in their presence . . . it is a tender mercy sent straight from God. I knew I had to keep moving—despite the fact that my soul had almost had more than it could take—even if it was THEIR faith that would sometimes be what carried us.

It is when we cannot do it anymore that He sends us such blessings. This life is so hard at times, but I am so thankful for the little boxes and blessings that can be a beacon of light to help us find our way.

What is the purpose of life? The purpose of life is to become like Christ through a series of tests that can, at times, make us want to abandon Him entirely. It is to find the blessings when some might find only a curse. This life is to help us find our strengths when we are constantly bombarded with weaknesses, temptations, trials, and pain. It’s to find joy in the little things. This life is for us to come to see that all we have is Him. No matter where we are, what we have, or what we have lost, Christ has felt our pain. He knows our name, and He hears our prayers. This life is just a blink in the eternal path we are trying to navigate, but it is that blink that will determine where our hearts long to be when we die. It is during these brief moments that we will prove our testimonies. We have this chance to show God that we will be strong in our faith, no matter what blocks our path. We will be diligent to the missions He sent us here to fulfill. The purpose of this life is to discover where He wants us to be, and to learn to find joy wherever we are. And when we are able to do this, nothing Satan throws our way will ever cause us to forget who carried us through the darkness.

My twins share their experience with Emmett's death


paigeandbryce said...

Ashlee, I know you hear this all the time, but you are so incredibly inspiring. I know it doesn't even begin to amount to any type of consolation for what you've been through, but know that you are blessing the lives of so many, simply by living yours so faithfully (and sharing it with us). Thank you. I feel blessed to have known you, if only for a short time (I think we could've been the best of friends if we would've had more time in the same place :).

shel said...

Ashlee you have never stopped amazing me from the moment you stepped into this nightmare. You have always stood tall and everyone can see that. You are blessed by your angels and they are blessed by you...so immensely. I love you and I think you are so brave for sharing and your heart is HUGE.

MamaMags said...

Thanks for sharing your story Ashlee. I can't imagine having to navigate the deep waters you have been forced to swim in, but you have managed to not only keep your head up, but give any who read your story a powerful boost to try to be a better person. (Lindsay's mom)

The Kooky Queen--Rachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Kooky Queen--Rachel said...

Ashlee, your blog is incredible, wow, I'm just blown away. I've thought of you many times in the years since we met, even though I was in your ward for a short time, I knew you were an incredible person. Reading your story and how beautifully you write these very personal experiences is humbling. It takes a courageous soul to write how you write, especially after such a dark time but your words are inspiring and touch the heart. Many hugs to you, thank you for sharing this!!!

Starli said...

Your words, your testimony, your strength has touched my soul.. I believe your words, your faith and courage will help many others. Thank you for sharing your heart and bearing your soul.... you are powerful and yet so very humble.. wise beyond your years... So proud of you and you are no longer a victim of this horror, but a survivor.

Anonymous said...

My friend has posted a link to your blog on facebook. Oh my goodness, did your story make me cry, but also so amazed at your beauty, wisdom, testimony, and strength. The tender mercy of your angel children is such a manifestation of Heavenly Father's love for you. Keep writing, and sharing. You can share your light and spread it to the darkest corners of this earth. Don't lose hope even when its hard. Strangers and other believers will lift you up. Thank you for sharing your soul.

Tawni Beardall said...

Ash! I am in awe of you! I always have been, but you have touched me in a different way today. You words are perfect, So raw and real, and so inspiring. You are so strong with the most beautiful testimony! Thank you for sharing your heart with us. You will bless the lives of SO many.
Tawni Beardall (we need to get together soon!)

Lisa said...

I am sitting here with tears running down my face. What sweet children you have and such a strong testimony you share.

Michelle said...

You and your children are incredible and beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story of love and hope and faith.

Anonymous said...

You are an AMAZING lady! I have been so touched by your testimony and what a wonderful mama you are to your sweet children! Thank you for sharing! You are truly an inspiration!

Stephanie said...

I loved this. What sweet kids you have :).

Anonymous said...

you are such an amazing woman.


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