January 28, 2014

Bailed OUT

It was a Tuesday, I think . . . late March. My mother encouraged me to get out of the house for a change of scenery. For the first time since everything had happened I was alone in public . . . at a bookstore trying to find a book on grieving children. It felt weird and awkward walking around inside the up-beat store. Everyone looked so happy and calm. They seemed to be enjoying the quiet and their own thoughts. Not me! I hated being alone with my thoughts, and especially in a public place where any minute I could lose control. I peeked around the corner of the next aisle . . . checking my surroundings carefully so that I could venture forward and hope to remain alone. I had no desire to run into anyone I knew . . . and I especially didn’t want my first time in a public place alone to be the time I ran into HER.

I found the section I was looking for and began leafing through the books. They all seemed so long and had way too much information. Couldn’t there just be a Do’s and Don’ts list to skim through? A checklist of all the things I needed to be doing as a mother of grieving children? Of course not. It couldn’t be that easy. I had children who were—on every level of the expression—out of their minds . . . scared of life. There wasn’t going to be an easy fix or a quick pill to dissolve under their tongues. No way to just let us all sleep it off. Every book I looked through made me feel more and more inadequate for this daunting task.

I had just about given up hope of finding a book that felt right for me, when my cellphone began to ring. I dug through my purse hoping to find it before the ringer stopped. Unfortunately, after I pressed the little green button to accept the call and then held the phone to my ear, I wished that my purse had been a little bit bigger, so that I would not have found my phone in time.

“Ashlee . . . hey.” It was a familiar voice from the AG’s office, “ I don’t know if you heard . . . but our judge was out of town today during the hearing . . . and um . . . well the visiting judge allowed Rob’s request for bail to be granted . . .  and . . . um . . . his parents have put down the bond money. . . um . . . so um . . . as of right now . . . he is . . . UM . . . out of jail.” Out of jail! My mind tried to grasp the words that now churned in my stomach.

“What do you mean? How is that possible? What . . . he . . . is . . . how? How can that be an option? …What if he comes after me? …What if he breaks into my house and hurts us? All I know about this man is that he shot and killed my husband a few weeks ago and now you’re telling me that he could show up at my doorstep or at my kids’ school . . . and you are all okay with this? Nobody is stopping it? I have no choice in the matter?” I felt utter despair. I had absolutely no control.

“Well if anything . . . he would just come to your house to tell you he was sorry. See, we found some things in his truck. He knew you had no idea about the affair.” From this conversation, I learned about a letter Rob had written to me as he sat in the passenger seat of his truck the night he shot Emmett. He had addressed it to me. He knew my name. It had our home address. … He knew where we lived! Tucked inside the envelope, the letter talked about all he had found out about his wife’s affair with my husband. How he wanted me to help him figure out how to stop it!

Now I was filled with more questions for Rob, the biggest of all being: then WHY didn’t you just send me the letter that night . . . instead of waiting for my husband with a loaded gun? I was hurting just like he was. Why couldn’t we have worked together to find answers for what was going wrong in our marriages? I had been searching alone. Rob, you weren’t the only one in pain. … I was sitting at home feeling it all too.

In some ways, knowing about the letter made me feel better, but in other ways it just left me with more uncertainty. I was out of my mind by this time. I didn’t want him at my doorstep . . . even if he posted the million dollar bond to my own personal account! I didn’t want anything to do with him . . . and now he was not only out of jail . . . he was headed back to his home, just a few miles away from mine! He just shot my husband in the head and in the heart . . . and now he could be anywhere? It didn’t seem possible that the criminal justice system could allow this to happen.

I don’t recall any more of that conversation. My eyes began spinning around, frantically searching for Rob. My heart was racing. Eventually, I hung up the phone. I hunched over in pain. My body felt like it was going to stop. NOW? Right now . . . I am sitting in this book store . . . alone . . . and he is out of jail? Maybe driving towards me? He could be here any second. What if he is on his way to find me? What if he comes to my house?

With that thought, all fears about my own well-being faded into the background. MY KIDS! They’re at home. What if he’s on his way there? I couldn’t stop pacing the floor. I started dialing my phone. The first person I called was my dad. We had just talked an hour before about the hearing that was to take place. I frantically told him what had just happened. He tried to calm me down and assured me that he would be there for me at any hour of the day or night, that everything would be okay, and that he loved me. It reassured me to know that he would be there for me if I needed him.

I didn’t know what Rob would do. All I knew was that I was scared. … I knew I had to have a way to protect my family. I called one of Emmett’s friends, Weston, who worked for a home security company. I hysterically managed to tell him about Rob being out of jail and how scared I was. He said, “Ashlee . . . we will be there soon . . . and if we have to work until midnight . . . you will have an alarm system in your house before you go to sleep tonight.” And he kept his promise. I think it was around 11:45 p.m. when that alarm system was fully installed and activated for the first time. Miracles of man . . . safety in my heart. I would spend the majority of my time the next few weeks in my house, with the doors locked, the blinds shut, the alarm on . . . and my cell phone in my hand.

After calling Weston, I found my way back to my car. Somehow, I managed to drive home. I had to tell my kids! The last thing I needed was for a major event in this case to be told to the girls the next day at school. Unfortunately, they didn’t handle the news well . . . and I questioned my decision about telling them.

For every moment of panic and fear we had experienced in the past three weeks, there were a hundred more now! Taps on my shoulder in the middle of the night. Tears of fear at three a.m. Outbursts of anger towards each other . . . and at me. Nightmares . . . endless nightmares. Mine usually startled me awake with the sound of a gunshot.

For one week, Rob didn’t even have any stipulations put upon him. He just went home and spent an entire week with his family. The judge had opened up the option for bail, unaware of the fact that it would be taken that very day. No ankle monitoring bracelet . . . no boundaries . . . no rules. Thankfully, a week later, Rob was ordered to wear an ankle monitor, and an order was issued for him to have no contact with me, or the only eye witness at the scene of the crime . . .  his wife. Boundaries were set around our house and my kids’ school. At one point, I called the detectives begging for monitoring devices to be put on both me and Kandi so that they could call me if I happened to get in the vicinity of either one of them. That way, I could go about my life without the constant fear of running into them wherever I went. They said that wasn’t possible. They probably thought I was crazy for asking, but that made the most sense to me. That would have helped me feel safe in my own skin.

Every time I left the house now, I not only imagined that I would see Rob’s mug shot in the crowd, but my heart truly believed he was always close behind me. The picture of his face haunted me in the darkness of the night. I left lights on everywhere and kept the blinds closed. I had nightmares. In one, I woke up in the night to feed the baby, and he was sitting outside my window . . . watching me. I saw his reflection in the glass of all my windows every time I looked out. This man . . . this person I didn’t even know . . . somehow had complete power over me. I had no control . . . and I hated it. I felt helpless. I felt alone. I felt scared that my fate would be the same as Emmett’s . . . that this “bad guy” whom I pictured in my dreams, would find me in the dark of night in some vacant parking lot. I didn’t leave my house at night . . . hardly ever. While everyone else was asleep, I spent many hours shaking and sweating in full-blown panic attacks. The fear of the unknown once again plagued my soul.

Rob would end up being out of jail until September. The end of March until the middle of September! Six months . . . wondering if I would see him on the streets. Twenty-five weeks . . . every day leaving the house with a prayer that today wouldn’t be the day we would meet. I was always prepared inside for it to happen . . . but I wasn’t prepared for what I might do.

I learned a lot about patience during those weeks. Patience with the law. Patience for what felt unjust. Patience for my own fears. And patience for the new normal that had been created for me. Patience for a life . . . I still longed to have. Patience for the day I would be once again be blessed to have the ‘normal’ I craved. Patience for my mind to work properly. I waited for my heart to stop pounding out of my chest. Patience for the joy I still hoped to find again. I waited for the trial . . . I longed for it to come, so it would be over. So we could finally look at each other face to face. Maybe he would say all the words Emmett never could. I also learned about patience for the Lord’s timing. In my life, He always seemed to be telling me to “be still,” and now it was not only a gentle whisper . . . it was a mandatory plea. I had no choice. I had NO control. Patience would have to become one of my strongest virtues . . . a quality with which I had not had a lot of experience in my twenty-eight years. Through those six long months . . . I saw and felt the refining fire of the virtue of patience. Patience in my hope, endurance in my faith.

Sometimes, Heavenly Father sends us little reminders of how we can change to become more like Him. Sometimes, He shouts them from the rooftops. He wants us to become like Him in every way. Submissive, patient, full of love. He has asked us to withstand the challenges of this life with all of these virtues, even when every fear we have ever feared comes true in two shots of a gun. It is definitely more easily said than done. He wants us to surround ourselves with opportunities and with experiences that refine us a little more . . . step by step. I thought the hardest part of my life came the night of Emmett’s death . . .  but it didn’t. It wasn’t just that night that I had to stand tall in my closet . . . I had to continue to stand tall through the years that followed. It wasn’t a one-time event that would shape my character and mold me into the woman that He needed me to become. He needed me to not only say that I would stand tall . . . He needed me to accept it as a part of who I was.

Rob’s release from jail was just that for me. A moment when I had to stand in faith. I had to know that Heavenly Father was going to help me be safe, that He knew I could be strong, and that He was begging me to be still. To truly put my life in his hands. And once I let go of all the control I had left . . . He was always there with me. He continued to give me the words to comfort everyone around me. He reminded me when I got frustrated, to just sit and hold my grieving children. He sent me Angels in the darkest times of my test of patience. And He bailed me out of the pain I thought would destroy me.

Sometimes, no matter how loud He is crying for us to hear His words . . . we will miss them. We will make mistakes, and we will fall. I know I have made mistakes every day, in one way or another. But when we are as low as we can go, He will bail us out. He bailed me out on the way home from the burial when he sent my Aunt Diane to volunteer to drive us back. He paid my bond when I walked into church and someone was always there for me, willing to hold a baby or color a picture with my kids. When I was at all of my lowest points . . . He always sent the payments of love I needed at the very moment I needed them. He knew I had forgotten how to cook and clean . . . and He sent inspired willing hands to wipe my tears and clean the fear off my countertops.

Just like Rob’s parents, our Heavenly Father sees our potential. He sees our worth as His sons and daughters. He will beg our judges to give us one more chance . . . He will sacrifice for us if it means that we will come a little closer to Him . . . if only to let us know that we are loved, He will pay our bond even when we don’t deserve it. He knows that we not only need Him, but that we can’t make it through this life without Him. He will do whatever it takes to bail us out of our past. When we let Him in, His son Jesus Christ will take upon Himself our sins and our pains . . . and He will teach us how to survive through our fears. I know that as He has watched me in patience . . . I have also grown a little on my own.

Some questions we have in life will only be answered after we show we have the faith to endure. Some may never be answered at all before we die . . . but no matter who we are . . . He will always bail us out and carry us when we cannot stand alone.


Anonymous said...

You will never realize how your wisdom has pulled me through many many situations where I felt totally alone and unable to move on. You are truly inspiring. There are times I feel you've been inspired to say certain things that were meant specifically for me. Your words and wisdom are blessings to all who read them.

Lisa said...

So terrifying for you. So grateful that He is there for us always. Thank you for inspiring us with your strength and testimony.

Anonymous said...

It is completely unbelievable that he was free to live his life unconfined for 6 months. Wow, I am just shaking my head at that, just astounded. How on earth…??? I am absolutely in awe of you that you were able to get through those terrifying weeks, and help your children through them as well. What a great example you are of tremendous faith. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story and for letting us get a glimpse of what it takes to overcome trials that seem so unfair and yet through them to develop increased strength. What courage.

Kim said...

Thank you Ashlee. I am so Thankful for you and that you are willing to share your testimony in such a personal way.

Anna Beal said...

Hi Ashlee. I came across your blog recently. I just wanted to tell you that I think you are an inspiration. I am so sorry you have been given this trial in your life. I can't imagine how terrified you must have felt when he was released. It probably sometimes feels like one trial after another. I'm sure you probably wonder when you will feel normal again. I am so glad you have such a big support group of friends and family around you. I know they will do everything they can to help you get there. Thank you for continuing to share your testimony. You are an inspiration. If I ever run into you in town (which I probably won't, because it seems I don't ever run into anyone) expect a big hug from a stranger with four little kids in tow :)

Tyler and Jeena said...

You are a strong and inspiring woman! Thanks for sharing your heart wrenching story.

Post a Comment

Blog Design By: Sherbet Blossom Designs