January 19, 2014

Not about YOU

I think in my closet the night of Emmett’s death . . . I naively believed Heavenly Father’s sweet reassurance that I could handle it, somehow meant that it was going to be easy, and that every day I would be strong. I thought that from that point forward, all would be simple and smooth, and that every new angle of the tasks I had ahead of me would come with little or no care. I had been through the hard stuff already, right? I felt that because of all we had already suffered, our ticket to peace and healing should have been a free ride. I wish I would have realized then that I still had many battles to fight . . . and many doubts to come. Living in denial became my life-support. In denial . . . I wasn’t a widow. I wasn’t left to take care of my children without a partner. Emmett hadn’t really been shot in the head and in the heart. Denial was my strength. Every breath seemed easier when I could pretend it wasn’t real.

Then on other days, despair paralyzed me with its power. I was not available for my kids in the way I wanted to be. There are complete twenty-four-hour periods for which I still have no clue what they ate, who got them dressed, or if Tytus and Kaleeya got their naps. Some days, I was kept busy away from them dealing with the paperwork involved in a death and the grim realities of a murder investigation. On other days, I was busy inside my own head, trying to figure out how to be a person and a mother again. Both of those types of days were scary for me. I had moments where I could see their love . . . but couldn’t feel it. I felt frozen and trapped in my own body.

I had never really understood commercials about depression medication when they stated that “all the things that used to bring you joy now feel dull and impossible” until now. I had a few days when even my kids were just reminders of the lies that had destroyed my marriage. Everything that had once brought me joy—like cooking and cleaning, and teaching my children—was now a monumental task that only reminded me of the life I had lost.

I felt guilty when I was away from my children, but I had no choice. The times when I was with them—and my mind was lost someplace else—are the days I wish I could get back. I had so many wonderful people who picked up the slack to allow those days to pass. Random neighbors, family members, and friends seemed to show up just at the very moment I needed them. My kids were always looked after, meals were always warm, and everyone always knew they were loved. At those times when I wasn’t able to be the mother I wanted to be, someone was always there to pick up the slack. For those miracles, I will forever be grateful.

One of those days stands out clearly in my mind. It was the day on which I had an afternoon appointment with detectives at Emmett’s office to sign over his computers and both his and Kandi’s cell phones as evidence in the murder investigation. I felt sick to my stomach all day. It was the kind of uneasy feeling that makes you so nauseous you can’t even take a bite of food . . . you have to force-feed yourself. And the nervous body shakes were like constant tremors in my limbs. I think my body had been in a state of perpetual nervousness for a long time. It was how I felt any time I had to go down to Emmett’s office to deal with business stuff, and it was always worse when I had to meet with the detectives. The brutality of his murder was more difficult for me to wrap my brain around than his death, or even the affair.

So this particular morning, I was absent. I was surrounded by fog and my zombie mode was in full force. My phone began to ring . . . and it didn’t stop for several hours. Some posts made on Facebook had detectives and family members, as well as some of Emmett’s former co-workers, up in arms. There had been threats and accusations made that were not going over well.

Originally after Emmett died, I kept his Facebook page up to serve as a memorial stop for anyone who wanted to share a kind thought or memory of him. However, I quickly began to question the wisdom of that idea when comments made by other women implied that they had spent time with my husband just days before his death. I tried a few times to get into his account in hopes of editing out some of the unflattering comments made by those women, as well as other questionable comments posted by friends I didn’t know, but my attempts failed. I had tried every single password we had ever used. Nothing worked, and so I stopped trying. My ego was severely damaged, but I figured I had no other choice than to live with it. I couldn’t take back those comments on Facebook any easier than I could change the fact that the stories being told were actually true.

So that day, after I got off the phone with several frustrated callers, I tried even harder to crack the code. I made up every kind of password I could think of. I was in tears . . . mainly about the comments I wanted deleted, and less about the threats against Rob, and Emmett’s former employees and employers for all they should have known. I sat at my computer for hours trying to get a hold of anyone who could help me figure out the password, and like a compulsive dog with a bone, typing in imaginary passwords over and over and over.

Finally, the time came for me to leave if I was going to make it downtown in time to meet with everyone. I went into my bedroom to change my clothes and fix my mess of a face. As I washed the mascara off my cheeks, I stared at myself in the mirror. “Ashlee,” I thought, “why are you making this about you? This isn’t about your pride. This isn’t about what others think about you . . . or about Emmett, for that matter. This is about a group of people who are all hurting each other. They are blaming each other. They are threatening. You need to think about them. You need to worry about your children’s future and safety. You need to find answers to this for them, NOT FOR YOU!”

That was it. For the past six hours, I had been going about it all wrong. I had been so consumed by my own pride that I wasn’t doing any of this for anyone but me. I knelt down beside my bed and began to change the way I asked for help. I prayed that I could find a way to fix what had been going on that day . . . that I could find someone—or something—to help me stop all of the horrible comments from being posted. I begged that, whatever it took, I could keep my babies safe from such hurtful words in the future . . . and from anyone whose actions could hurt them now.”

I stood up and grabbed my purse and keys. I walked towards the door into the garage. As I reached for the handle, a jumbled mix of words and numbers came to my mind. I stood there gripping the door knob, not quite understanding what any of it meant. Then like a light bulb going on, I knew it was the password.

I dropped my purse and ran back to my computer. Within one minute, Emmett’s Facebook page was totally shut down. All of the hateful words spoken . . . gone. All of the threats and accusations . . . erased. All of the embarrassing memories . . . deleted.

I wasn’t available for my kids that day. I have no idea if I told them I loved them or not. I don’t even know if I kissed them goodbye. But I was able to do something for them. Once I let go of my pride and stopped thinking about myself, I was given the inspiration I needed to keep them safe. That password certainly didn’t come to my mind because of anything I was doing correctly as a mother at that time. It came as a protection for other people who needed to feel safe. It came to me because Heavenly Father loved my children and wanted to give me the power to protect them. My ego wasn’t important to Him. When I let go of myself, I was given the answers to my prayers.

It is easy to put yourself first. It is natural. It feels safe. It is a fight or flight mechanism with which we are all innately born. “What is in it for me? What do I get out of this relationship or deal? If I do something nice for someone else . . . am I doing it to see them succeed and find happiness . . . or do I have my own back in mind?” When we are focused on ourselves, we do not truly see anyone else. We are blinded by our own power and pride. The world is for us to use . . . at any cost.

That belief is untrue! It is a lie that destroys relationships and families. It is a powerful force that can rip apart all that is good. Darkness in your heart will lead you to serve yourself . . . and eventually, all you will have left . . . is yourself. One feel-good-in-the-moment selfish decision after another in life will bring you to live life all alone. Even the power of darkness that pulls you away from the ones you love will, in the end, eventually leave you. Satan makes no permanent friends. He doesn’t wait around to see how you cope.

True joy comes when we put others ahead of ourselves, when we allow God to steer our course. I know that every day can seem a little bit more daunting than the last. The moments we stand can, at times, seem impossible. But true joy will not come if all we have is ourselves. Take care of the people who stand in those moments with you. Even if you can’t feel the love that is pouring out all over you . . . when the darkness fades, eventually you will be able to find it and focus on it. That love will be stronger than any selfish desire that tried to take you away from it.

Sometimes, there is a quiet whispering that speaks to our souls. It is a voice that helps us when we need to feel comforted. It is a peace that holds us when we need to feel loved. It is a calm that reassures us that it is all going to be okay. I was blessed that afternoon with a quiet whisper. It was a miraculous moment for me. I know that miracles are real. I know that even when we feel we don’t deserve it, we are still given reassurance that even in the small things . . . God cares about US.


The Lyver Family said...

So grateful for those tender mercies of the Lord.

Cashelle said...

You amaze me!!! I have been following this blog from its first post. You have strengthened my testimony. Thank you for sharing your innermost thoughts and private miracles. I believe in miracles as well.

Alli said...

I dont know you. I wish I did! but you strengthen my testimony. I appreciate your time in writing these very personal experiences for us all to draw strength on.

Auntie EM said...

I found your blog through "The Sullengers," another amazing Ashley. I read everything you posted and I can't in my wildest imagination understand what you've been through but what stood out is your faith and love for the Savior and our Heavenly Father. I love the ending of your sidebar "I Believe" when you tell of light and peace and hope. My prayers will include you and your little ones and on my lips will be praise and honor to God who made the ultimate sacrifice for us and saved us. He understands our every heartache and pain. May He continue to bless your life and the lives of your little ones. I pray he will continue to send you his tender mercies and angels to bear you up. You are an amazing woman...I wish you didn't have to go through so much but your words and testimony will undoubtedly inspire many to seek after the light of Christ. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Whose Shawn?

♥Seri said...

So beautifully put Ashlee - I love hearing you write, the stories you share, and the profound wisdom with which you teach. Truly amazing and I'm so grateful you're writing about it all! Hugs!

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