January 22, 2014

Last words

I remember a day sitting at the play land at McDonald’s. I am not sure if anyone else was there, but my kids were just running around having fun. Tytus was in my arms. Tears were falling down my face. I watched the kids as they played, but my mind was elsewhere. It had gone back in time . . . rehearsing over and over the day Emmett died.

Friday, March 11, 2011. I spent the whole day preparing to spend a wonderful evening together as a family. I had made all of Emmett’s favorite foods. The kids were dressed to the nines. I had decided no one would go to sleep that night until we spent some quality time together as a family. I needed Emmett to see that these babies and I knew he was at a low point . . . but that we still loved him with all of our hearts. Everything was just waiting for him. A few hours went by, but he still wasn’t home. I had my mind made up . . . we would all be waiting for him when he got home. We waited . . . and waited. Finally, I heard the garage door open, and his truck pulled in. Emmett walked into the house. He was expressionless. He didn’t notice any of my preparations. I tried to give him a kiss, but he just threw his head to the side and walked towards the kitchen. I asked about his day. No reply. He just kept looking out the window and checking his phone. The baby was asleep in his bouncy chair and the kids had gone off to play upstairs, so I decided this might be an opportunity for me to speak alone with him. I followed Emmett into the kitchen and hoisted myself up onto the countertop next to him.

We chit-chatted for a minute. As we sat there in the kitchen, he said, “I can’t wait to go to a counselor one of these days so he can tell you how crazy you are!” My heart dropped. This was not the conversation I had been looking forward to having. I said, “So that is our answer? We just need a counselor to tell us how crazy I am . . . and that will fix our marriage? You honestly don’t think you play any role in what has been going on in this house the last few months?” For the first time in weeks, I had dared to question out loud something he had said. He stared back at me, shocked. “What the hell would he tell me to do better?” I said, “Do you . . . do you . . . really want me to tell you?” Emmett replied, “Yeah, Ash, tell me what on earth a counselor would ever say to me!” So I said, “Well . . . will you listen and let me talk? Will you let me share some things I’ve been struggling with . . . without getting mad at me?” He said, “I won’t say a word!”

So, I began . . . “Well I think he might touch on the subject of the kids missing you and wanting you to be a part of their lives . . .” He sat silently. I continued, “And I’ve felt you have pushed me away, especially in an area that used to be such a healthy part of our marriage. I feel like when you don’t want to be intimate or even sleep in the same room as me, that either I’m not doing it for you . . .” I couldn’t breathe . . .  “or that someone else is!” He lost it. He began screaming at the top of his lungs. Still to this day, I know Angels must have held earmuffs over my children’s ears, because they didn’t hear a thing. I could barely hear their laughter upstairs over his screams. I had to get through to him. I grabbed his face with both my hands and said, “I need you to listen to me right now. I love you. I have always loved you. I am not going anywhere. I know something is going on with you. I need you to talk to me and quit pushing me away. I miss you. Whatever it is . . . I am prepared to support you through it. I have been to the temple, I have talked to a counselor . . . I know we can do this. I have been asking my family to pray for us. They believe in us. We all believe in you, Emmett. I am willing and wanting to know what role I have played in harming our relationship, and I want to be better for you. These kids and I are not going anywhere . . . but I need you to trust me right now when I tell you that I can’t take much more of this . . .  without knowing that we are all on the same team and that we are working together to finding answers for our family.” He stopped shaking and for just a few seconds, there was a glimmer of the old Emmett in his eyes. He took a few long breaths and said, “Ash . . . I am scared . . . I don’t know what I am doing . . . please be patient and wait for me . . . I am so scared.” Just then, his phone beeped with a new text message. As if a magician had waved his wand . . . Emmett snapped out of his moment of sincerity. Then he threw my hands off his face, and at the top of his lungs, he screamed “You and your f...ing family can just go to Hell . . . You guys don’t care about me. You hate me! You don’t love me . . . I could kick all their asses...” He yelled out threats against my brothers and the rest of us, and then screamed that he didn’t want or need any of us.

In a worked up frenzy, he ran into our bedroom, yelling at me as he left the kitchen. I was shaking, and tears were streaming down my face. I fell to the kitchen floor, not sure about what to do next. A few minutes later, the kids came downstairs. I picked myself up off the floor and tried to put on my happy smile. I sat them down around the table and began to serve them all of Emmett’s favorite foods, now a very cold dinner. As they began to take bites, Emmett came and took his seat at the head of the table, as he had hundreds of times at any normal family dinner. I began to dish up his food, but he said, “I am not going to eat this crap.” He just sat with a blank gaze . . . and watched the kids eat his favorite dinner. When they were done, he told them all to go to the couch to watch TV with him. He leaned over to me and said, “See, I am a good dad…”

They had only been watching TV for a few minutes when Emmett’s phone rang. He answered and addressed the caller by name. It was the close family friend I had e-mailed, begging him to check up on Emmett sometime that week. I had shared with him some of my concerns about our marriage. He was not only one of Emmett’s best friends, but he was also a family therapist—someone I hoped could shed some light on what to do . . . if only Emmett would open up to him.

Emmett stepped into our bedroom to continue his conversation. The baby monitor was on in our bedroom, so I could hear his voice coming from the receiver in the kitchen. At first, I walked over to turn it down to give him some privacy, but then I decided I had better take this opportunity to hear just what he had to say about the problems in our marriage. At first, I could only hear bits and pieces of the conversation because the kids were playing nearby. Since it was already way past their bedtime, I decided to get them all tucked into bed and not worry too much about the conversation going on in our bedroom.

Once the kids were in bed, I went back to the kitchen and took a seat next to the monitor to see if I could pick up any tips as to how to start the process to heal our home. What I heard was devastating. Not a single word I heard Emmett speak about me was true. I knew I had shortcomings as a wife: faults, insecurities and fears. I also had shortcomings as a parent . . . and in all aspects of my life, for that matter, but the things I heard being said about me were out and out lies.

I felt the same way I had felt a few days earlier, when I had walked out of the counselor’s office. The information I heard that night gave me no direction and still left me with no answers as to how to be there for my husband, or what to change in myself to be a better wife to him. When their conversation was over, he walked out of the room with a big grin on his face. “Well, he thinks you are as crazy as I do, so I guess this IS all your fault. He said that you make him sick, and he believes every word I told him about you.”

I sighed, my heart pounding out of my chest. “Well, what about me, Em? Don’t I get a chance to talk to him?” He muttered, “Do whatever you want . . . but you aren’t touching my phone.” So I grabbed my own phone and headed to our bedroom. I felt a need to share the feelings and fears that had been plaguing me for the past few months. I got him on the phone and began to pour it all out. … He was definitely prepared to tell me I was crazy. Emmett was an excellent attorney, and with his well-crafted arguments, he had made certain that his friend wouldn’t listen to a thing I had to say.

In the middle of our conversation, Emmett walked into the room and said, “I’m going to Walgreens to grab some medicine.” I held the phone away from my ear and begged, “Please, just wait, please . . . we can talk about what you guys talked about. Let’s just spend the night together and try to figure this out. … Please stay! Emmett, I am begging you. I need you to stay here!” He shot back, “No . . . don’t tell me what to do! I’m going to go.”

And those were the last words he would ever say to me. I would never hear his voice again. Those were the words that would ring in my ears forever. They would ring in my soul, and they didn’t just speak to me in that moment. They said to me over and over again, “You aren’t worth staying for, you aren’t worth my time. You aren’t pretty enough, you aren’t skinny enough. You’re not worth living for or fighting for.” Every doubt I had ever had in my life . . .  now rang out in my ears. Those doubts rang true and they rang out clearly. I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t worth fighting for, and no one in his right mind would ever see that I was good enough. I felt like I would always be just a broken piece of the “me” I had once been.

As I played out the scene of that horrible evening over and over again as I sat there in McDonalds, I could feel myself getting smaller and smaller. I could smell the fries and chicken nuggets . . . My kids were all around me. I could hear the orders being placed . . . people were everywhere. The world was spinning around me . . . nobody was standing still. My children would come up and give me kisses every few minutes. I could see their cute smiles. I could hear their soft giggles as they went up and down the slide . . . but all I could FEEL was the despair that this truth left inside of me. I WAS nothing.

Why hadn’t I been enough that night? What could I have done or said to make him want to stay? That day at McDonald’s wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last, when my body stood in the moment . . . but my mind was somewhere stuck in the past, frozen in anguish.

You cannot rewrite the past . . . not even with all the hurt and anger of the world. My fears all came true in one night, and now they were screaming inside of me . . . that I was worth NOTHING. That I was not even worth living for . . . and that I wasn’t even the one he died fighting for.

Emmett knew I wasn’t going to give up on him . . . but he was also so afraid of losing us that he thought it would be easier to let his secrets destroy him . . . inside. I have never been in that situation. I can only imagine that after one lie turns into another, it is just easier to push everyone away, and pretend that everything is someone else’s fault. What if he had just let us in? What if he had told me everything that night? Maybe it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the following hours, but it would have changed some things for me. I’m sure he thought he’d have all the chances in the world to come back and apologize for the secrets he was keeping from us, the lies he was trying so hard to conceal. I know his words and actions that evening aren’t what he would have wanted our last memories of him to be. It hurts deep in my soul . . . for him . . . that they are.

We will all speak our last words one day. Just as true as the sun will rise, we will all have a morning that will be the final time we walk out our front door . . . never to return. What will your last words be? What ‘I am sorry’ will be left unsaid? If you were to die today, what will echo in the hearts and minds of those you love? What memories will your family be left with . . . if this breath you take right now . . . were to be your final breath?

For everyone who walks the earth . . . now is your time. Now is OUR time to decide how we want to be remembered when we leave this mortal world. Now is the moment to speak our last words . . . every single day. Now is our time to stand in the places in which we find ourselves, and to love with all of our hearts.

Make every moment count. Take every opportunity to make your last words the ones that truly come from the heart. Leave every room better than when you entered it . . . before you turn around and shut that door. Smile as you leave, just in case that image is the last one your loved ones will have left . . . of the “you” they will remember.

I have watched myself feel small. I have believed with all of my heart that I was worthless. I have had regrets about things I said and things I heard. I have felt the despair of words left unsaid . . . but one thing I have come to understand is that the past doesn’t determine our future. We don’t have to be what we once were. We are not always destined to fall. Even if we have wronged everyone we have ever known, it is never too late to change the words we say or the script we are writing. We have the power to decide who we want to be and what we will become. We can’t change the past . . . but we can help write the future.


Now is the time to live with your last words on your lips, so that when the time comes, you can leave everything behind with no regrets. Live those moments that will never be forgotten as the person Christ would want you to be.

23 comments:

Megan said...

It is scary to me that as I read your story I know that mine was headed that way. Pornography, drinking and anger were my husbands go to thing. He lost his job over it, took a job in another state. Things spiraled from there. He was so angry with me if I didn't do everything right. He came home for Christmas and demanded that I listen to these books on cd. When I didn't get to reading enough of them over the 3 day holiday he said he was never coming back. It was so ugly but I finally got him to talk to me. I thought we had a break through. It got worse. He started going to these hook up sites and was participating in them. Drinking at bars every night and barely talking to me. When he finally came home it took him months to tell me the truth of what he had been doing. It was degrading to me. I felt worthless and like nothing. Reading your words and thoughts are helping me heal the wounds that his infidelity has caused. He has spent the last few years repenting and now has a temple recommend back. I am so sorry for all that you have gone through. I can't even imagine the pain that lies just beneath the surface at all times for you. I just hope that you know that you are helping others especially me to see their worth. Helping me to make everyday better for my family.

ashanderson said...

Ashlee...we have the same name spelled the same way, both went to Utah State, and have lived in the same places. :) Your example of unconditional love, faith through adversity, and ability to share such raw emotion inspire me. Thank you for sharing your story. Through your writing I find hope and solace knowing that I too can rely upon our Savior to get through anything. My heart aches that you have had to live this tragedy. You have turned darkness and despair into light and hope and I look forward to more of your words of faith and truth. I have loved every word of your writing and now that it is into the wee hours I know that I will wake up more refreshed than sleep would offer...to be a better mother, friend, wife, and person knowing that I have the strength of your example. I love how your friend served your family with the Daddy quilts, how your mother inspired your children to serve others and share with others through their great loss, how your sweet 20 month old comforted you through your pain, how you confronted your husband with your feelings and still offered him your love, how you zombied through unfathomable times to be there for the work that needed to be done, how you walked your children through their grief with such grace. You are an amazing example. Thank you again for sharing. May Heavenly Father bless you and your family with comfort and peace.

Anonymous said...

You are amazing. Just amazing. Thank you for letting us into your heart and sharing your story. I think of and pray for you daily.

Anonymous said...

I don't know you personally but I saw the interview of the story on a channel a few days ago. My heart felt for you and those babies. You seemed to be the youngst but the most mature of the situation. Your faith is amazing and the example you set for your kids. You are an amazing woman! Reading your post I can tell this was during the dark time in your life but yet a little piece of light was still there. I can't tell what date you actually wrote the post (assuming it was not this year) but I can tell in your response to comments that you are in a better place now and have healed. I pray for you to continue to heal in your strength and raising your kids. You could write a book both for the story and for the spirital advice. You could help a lot of people by telling your story. Thank you for sharing. You truly have a beautiful heart. God bless you and your family.

Ruth Sagers said...

My heart hurts again and again that you went through this. So sorry. I'm glad that you are finding peace and comfort. You are a kind and beautiful person. Much love to you!

Miss Jenn said...

What an amazing woman you are. I admire the grace with which you have dealt with your trials. A good lesson to anyone who hears your story.

ashley said...

I have been completely hooked on your blog since I came across it last week! I want to read and read and read! It is amazing to hear the triumph, the miracles, the faith, the courage, and devotion rise from such a tragic story! You have inspired me and strengthened my testimony! You are laying your treasures up in heaven and I can only imagine how many hearts are swelling with pride for you, on earth and in heaven, for the woman you have been and for the woman you are becoming. As a wife and a mother of 5 littles myself I cannot begin to comprehend passing through a fragment of what you have, and like a warrior I might add. Thank you so much for sharing your story and bringing peace, strength and comfort to so many!

Anonymous said...

You are AMAZING. I'm not even sure what else to say. You are an inspiration to me in more ways than I can say. You are beautiful inside and out. Thank you for sharing your life and experiences with us all. I cannot begin to imagine what you have been through. I have cried and cried for you, my heart aches for you, and yet, you are the one inspiring us all, through your example of hope, faith, and love. Your writing is beautiful. There is no doubt you were inspired to do this and have touched and will continue to touch do many lives because of your words and example. Your strength is awe-inspiring. Your kids are so blessed and lucky up have you as theirs. Thank you. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better wife. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better mother. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better daughter of God. Thank you for helping me to see and embrace the beautiful blessings and life that I have, and to see the tender mercies and small miracles given by our Savior daily. I will continue to look forward to reading your words.

Debbie said...

Ashlee, I read your posts and want to say you are amazing. And then I realize that what I am feeling is also that the gospel is amazing. Thank you for your example of strength and faith in things that are real. I'm so sorry for all that you have been through. Your story is powerful. Thank you for sharing it.

Stacey said...

So many people could benefit from hearing you. I suggest a book or the Time Out for Women events that happen all over the country. I am hanging on every post and I am anxious to hear more about your experience. What you have gone through is incredible, but you always lighten and brighten each post with so much positivity. Thank you for being you. And for sharing that with us.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait each day to read your story of life love faith heartbreak strength and encouragement. You have an amazing mission here on earth and have been able to reach so many people on many different levels. You make me want to live a life of service compassion and love. You are an example of light and what motherhood and life is all about. I can not imagine the pain you live everyday, but am thankful for those angels that have helped you share this with the world. You are my angel and have helped me to live my life as a child of god. Thank you.

The.Marcellus.Family said...

Your posts are simply amazing. So many things people can learn from you. Your kids are seriously so luck to have you in their lives. What an amazing example you are. Thanks so much for feeling comfortable enough to have your story out in the open, and telling it how you are. I look up to you in very huge way.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry that you had to go through all this. My heart breaks to think that your self-worth was effected by it. YOU are not the reason why Emmett chose to do what he did. I think as a woman it is easy to blame yourself. But no matter WHAT you did does NOT excuse someone having an affair. You fought for your marriage and wanted to make it work. You are such a wonderful example to us all!!! I love reading your blogs! You are MORE than enough! Never let anyone or anything make you feel less.

The Schultz Family said...

Thank you for sharing your story not only is it therapeutic for you, it is helping to change my life for the better. I see the things that I need to correct whether they be small or large and your blog is teaching me to do them now and to cherish my family today. You are an inspiration. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you

Lori said...

AMEN!

Chad and Amy Hatfield said...

As a high school friend of Emmett's, my heart hurts for him (and for you--of course!). It is tragic, to be sure, that you and your children are continuing on after such a heartbreaking event, but the real tragedy is that he ran out of time to make this right. I believe by writing all of this, you are giving him that opportunity somehow. Thank you for doing this. He was a good man, who unfortunately lost hold of the rod. I pray your family can feel peace and healing. Sending hugs and prayers. :)

breena rae said...

Thank you Ashlee for your strong testimony. You are an amazing example to me. Love you!

Anonymous said...

Ashlee,
You are inspiring. After reading your blog I came out with a secret that I had been hiding for years. I had changed my ways and moved on, but never told anyone. It felt worst at first...reliving my mistake, but I do feel like I am able to move on now. Thank you for writing this...it changed my life.

Ashlee and Shawn said...

That is amazing. Thank you for sharing. I don't feel like I have the time to read all the comments on here... or to answer everyone. But I am so thankful when I do take a minute to read them to see that as others heal from our story.... we do a little more and more too.

Amy said...

I live around Boise, and I have to tell you that when the story about Emmett unfolded....so many hearts broke for you, Ashlee. It wasn't fair....it was so cruelly unfair. I (and many, many others) wondered how you would heal from it...how your sweet children would heal from it. Every time I heard you speak, the emotion and the pain was so palpable. You are something special, Woman....you convey thoughts and emotion beautifully. I hope for many peaceful, loving, and wonderful years for you and your husband, and your babies. You're beautiful....with an even more beautiful heart!

C said...

Ashlee, I found your blog from Facebook. I'm a little behind but started reading from the beginning. My heart aches for all that you and your little ones had to suffer going through this life altering trial. I cannot read a single post without tears streaming down my face. Heavenly Father has blessed you with unshakable faith it is apparent in your writing. I don't even know you personally but wish I could hug you and your sweet babies.

Jenn38571 said...

This entry is powerful and I think God had me read it today for a reason. Every moment and every word said to someone needs to be done or said in love. God bless your family!!

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