January 7, 2014

Silence breaks

When Emmett left that night, I somehow knew this time was different. He left just as he had on many nights, saying he was going to go run an errand and be right back . . . but then not coming home for seven or eight hours. I knew in my heart that—just as the previous weeks had shown me—he wasn’t coming back any time soon. My six-week old baby began to cry the minute the garage door shut, just as he had done every night. This time, his cry seemed to be a panic, which I not only felt in his screams, but in my heart.

I called Emmett to beg him to come back . . . no answer. I said a prayer . . . I pleaded that the nightmares I had been having all week about my baby dying would just go away. This could not be the answer the universe had to get this father to realize what he had been given in this life! I prayed that the death of his child would not be the thing that shook his world and helped him want to come home to us. I pleaded with my Heavenly Father that he would not take my baby. I begged that Emmett would be given a chance to find peace and come home to us, and that he would be released from this torment that was plaguing his mind and his choices. I could feel his internal battle of something being wrong. I never heard it from his mouth, but I could see it all over his face. I pleaded that this feeling of panic I had would be calmed tonight, and that whatever it took for Emmett to come home and be the father I needed him to be . . . would happen. Maybe he could just get arrested and sit in jail for a few nights . . . thinking of his amazing life. Maybe he would want to come home to live it. Maybe he could get in a wreck and sit in a hospital bed, finding a realization that his wife and children were worth it . . . worth taking care of, and that it was worth being his wife’s sweetheart and his children’s father. At least maybe he could see that it was worth coming home to us.

After my prayer, I held my screaming baby in one hand . . . I held my scriptures in the other hand, and I bounced. For two hours I bounced. My phone sat near by . . . silent. Bouncing . . . screaming . . . tears rolling down my cheeks. Something was so wrong. At about ten p.m., I was overcome by sheer panic. I called and text him many times. No response. But how was this different than the hundreds of times he had ignored my pleas? Two more hours: bouncing . . . waiting . . . crying . . . panic . . . reading . . . singing to my hysterical infant. Would he ever stop crying? Midnight. Baby stopped crying and fell asleep. Now what? Now I was really alone and the pain sank even deeper in my empty heart. I went to reach for my phone . . . who could I call? Emmett wouldn’t answer. What would I say to my Mom, or my sisters? Would anyone believe me? Something was wrong . . . I had been saying it for months. No one really seemed to believe me. I finally decided to lie down and try to sleep. My head hit my pillow, but the tears just slid down my face. I guess I kind of knew in my heart that someone was on the way to tell me he had been in a wreck and I could go see him . . . or that he had been in a fight and I could go bail him out of jail. At least he would be forced to need me. At least I could look him in the eye and tell him I was here for him . . . and maybe for once in all these crazy months, he would hear me. Maybe this time, he would be in a place to feel our love pouring out all over him.

One a.m. . . . knock . . . knock . . . knock. I had fallen asleep. I don’t know how, but now I was jolted awake in a dreamy fog. Was all this real? Yes, and it was all going to be okay . . . right? Yes. Everything would be fine. Right? Each step to the door felt heavier and heavier, and my heart was racing like I had just run a thousand miles. Door opens . . . three people I had never seen before. Asked if I was Emmett’s wife. . . asked to come in. “NO! I don’t know you . . . just tell me where he is so I can go talk to him!” Ma’am . . . please let us in . . . “NO! I am here alone with my five babies, and I don’t want you in my house. Just tell me!” “Please Ashlee . . . please . . .” My sister Ali pulls up to the house . . . a true inspiration on the part of her boyfriend who had a strong feeling that she needed to head over to my house. Ali was here, I was going to be okay. “Fine . . . come in! Now tell me where he is.” “We need you to sit down . . .” I don’t want to freaking sit . . . Okay. We all sit down around my couch, everyone is fidgeting and they won’t look me in the eye. “Ma’am . . . there has been an accident . . . and your husband was killed at the Walgreens on Linder.”

Heart stops . . . lungs stop . . . body freezes.  “Kandi . . . Rob . . . murdered . . . affair . . . gun . . . Kandi . . . Emmett . . . relationship . . . dead . . . murdered . . . Kandi . . . Rob . . . gun . . . Emmett . . . dead . . . husband . . . gone . . . father of five . . . murdered . . . family . . . broken . . . life . . . stopped . . . adultery . . . lies . . . secrets . . . secret life . . .  murdered . . . gone . . . widow . . . alone . . . secrets . . . dead . . .”

“Kandi . . . Emmett . . . found . . . dead . . . babies . . . fatherless . . .”

I don’t remember a single word, just phrases and pieces. I couldn’t breath. My heart was pounding into my lungs and my lungs were full of all the lies, all the secrets that were finally being told to me. And now he was gone. No “I am sorry”s. No: “Please forgive me”s. Nothing but emptiness, humiliation, and utter despair. He was gone: the man to whom I had promised to stick with it through the good and the bad. Now, I had all the answers as to why it was going so badly, and he wasn’t even here to work with me to make it all right. All I could think about was our five babies sleeping soundly in their beds, having no idea that their universe had just been shattered. Where would I even begin? Could I just lie to them? Could I cover up all the bad stuff and just say he got in a car wreck? NO. That would just be more lies. Lies are what got us here in the first place. Plus, if they didn’t hear it from me, they would hear it from friends or read it on the Internet one day, then look back and think I was the liar. But how could I let them hear this? Me, a mother who hated my kids to even play with toy guns, a mother who skipped over the word ‘killed’ or ‘dead,’ or ‘murdered’ in our scriptures. And now their super hero— the man who was supposed to always protect them and keep them safe—had been brutally gunned down because he was sleeping with another man’s wife. How could I change that story to protect my innocent babies’ minds?

That night was filled with these questions and turmoil inside myself. I wanted to be able to protect this man whom I had loved for seven years. I wanted to be able to just take away all the pains that would follow that black night. But that is not how this world works. We have to face truths, we have to be strong for our babies, we have to have faith that even on the worst night of our lives, our Heavenly Father is going to carry us through—carry us through in the words we have to speak, carry us through the painful truths, and carry us through to keep taking another breath . . . keeping us moving forward and living . . . not only for ourselves but for the ones who need us.

I remember walking into my closet that night to beg Heavenly Father for a ‘do over.’ I begged Him for answers to why all of this was real. I fell to my knees and pleaded for the peace that I needed. The most peaceful feeling came over my body. A still, small voice whispered to my heart: “BE STILL . . . I have been here, and I am still here. Angels have guarded this home and each of you. None of that has changed. It will be hard, but you have to keep moving forward. You have to have faith for a brighter day, which will come as long as you keep protecting these sweet children and having faith in Me. You are not alone. You have been watched over, and I am proud of you. I believe in you. Now is the time when you have to decide if your testimony has been in your perfect life and your husband, or if your testimony is in Me. Ashlee, be still. Breath. You did all you could. You did your best. I am so proud of you. You were an amazing wife; you are an incredible mother. You are still you. Do not let this define who you will become. You are still the Ashlee you have always been, and I see so much good in you. Believe in yourself and do not doubt who you are because of the pain you now feel so deeply. Find forgiveness and peace. This is the time to find the beauty that is still all around you. Make the world a better place for those children I have blessed you with. I will carry you when it gets unbearable, but I need you to STAND.”

And there it was . . . the defining moment I was praying so hard for Emmett to receive. The moment when you realize that all you have and all you are doing is worth it because Heavenly Father is proud of you. He is the reason you have been given all that you have. Why we couldn’t have had that moment together, I will never know for sure, but I understood that the “Why” in life was sometimes not always answered. It is the “How” in life we have to seek. How can I show my Father in Heaven that I believe Him when He said He watched over me and has been with me? I can keep living, and move forward. He asked me that night to be more than just me . . . He asked me to believe in Him and have faith that He would be there to help me through it all. And day by day, He gave me opportunities to accomplish things and to continue to find ways to do all that He asked of me. That night, He asked me to have faith, but then, He not only gave me the courage to follow that faith, He laid out before me the path that would bring me the peace and healing He desired for me. Peace and healing has come in a series of moments . . . one step at a time.

Heavenly Father loves each one of us individually, regardless of the choices we make. He sees our worth as a person no matter who we are. He saw the beauty of all the letters sent to us to brighten our days. He saw all the times people dropped by to take my kids to a movie or a hockey game. He saw every floor that was mopped and toilet that was cleaned. He saw all the closets in my house that were organized, and the meals brought in with love. He saw the checks that were written. He read the emails that gave me strength. He witnessed the blankets that were sewn for my babies out of their daddy’s clothes. Not one good deed we do on this earth goes unnoticed. Even though, at times, we all feel a little invisible . . . He is always there. He sends his love in ways that we don’t always realize come from Him. And sometimes, He uses us to be someone else’s Angel. Each one of us was made just the way we are . . . on purpose.

I think the moment I truly understood unconditional love was when we were sitting in Rob’s murder trial. For three weeks, we all sat there: Emmett’s family on one side, and Rob’s on the other. We all listened to the facts. We all knew exactly what happened. The facts were the facts. I watched his family. I watched his Mother. She loves her son. She is aware of the fact that he isn’t perfect, and that he made a life-altering decision, and yet her love for him as her son lives on. That is how I see our Father viewing all of us. We all make mistakes. Some of them are life-changing, and some of them will never be known by any one else . . . and yet our Heavenly Father loves us still. He sees our worth, He finds good in us. We are still His son or daughter.

Whatever path has led you down roads you wish you could change, there is still hope. You can find a way back to the road you always dreamed of as a kid. You can be anything you want to be. Our past does not have to define our future. We have the power to make a change. We can become whoever we choose to be. Nobody can tell you that you do not have worth, because no matter who you are . . . you do.


I don’t think I truly knew that until all the things that gave me a sense of self-worth were taken away. Find your sense of worth by being the best person you can be. Find it by writing letters to someone in their need. Find it in serving someone else. Find it by becoming selfless and living your life to make your Heavenly Father proud of you, because every other outside source powering your view of your self-worth can literally be taken away in a second. All that we have in our lives is because of Jesus Christ. He is the reason for every blessing. So let us live each moment in gratitude for the fragile blessings we all have.


40 comments:

My name is Becka said...

Thank you for sharing. Thank you for letting others lean on you.

Jenni Terry said...

Last sunday during Relief Society the spirit impressed upon me that if we truly know that our Heavenly Father knows us and loves us and will always love us no matter what then we will be able to get through anything. This post confirms that. Our Heavenly Father comforted and reassured you, telling you he was proud of you and knew who you were and that you were strong enough to get through this and that he would help you get through it. He did. Because of your strength your family has come through the incredible difficulty stronger. You are an amazing example of a Christ centered person and everyone who knows you is better because of you. Thank you for sharing this. I look forward to more posts.

Natalie Marti said...

Thank you Ashlee for your courage and example.

Jayne Blazek said...

Thank you Ashlee for sharing your testimony of the love our Heavenly Fathers has for us and the strength we can draw from him no matter what we are experiencing.

John and Anna said...

Oh boy, Ashlee, I'm so grateful you are getting this out so the world can see your strength and know that it is possible to go through the worst nightmare imaginable and still come out of it knowing stronger than ever that there is a loving Heavenly Father still there for you. If anybody deserves to have angels surrounding them it is you.

Leslie said...

Ashlee your testimony of our Heavenly Father is truly beautiful and thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I see my husband making choices that affect me and our family and I feel helpless. Every few years it's something new. The gospel has been all that keeps me hanging on through these times. I too wish my husband could see what he's doing to those he loves. Sometimes I pray that he wakes up and "gets" it. But then I get scared that the only way that will happen will be something like you went through. Thank you for sharing your story. It's given me a lot to think about.

Goldie said...

While my struggles are much different than yours, a lot of feelings are the same. I needed to hear a lot of the things you said. I'm looking forward to reading more. It strengthens me to be reminded that when I'm doing what Heavenly Father wants me to, I am enough. And, that, I too, am boy alone and the He is there strengthening me. Thank you for sharing and helping my prayers to be answered.

Jen Kroll said...

I followed your story and am amazed by your strength. You are an amazing woman, and your children will learn strength through you.

Kate Olson said...

Thank you! This is just what I needed to read. It was as if you were writing those last 2 paragraphs specifically for me. God is using you greatly to help others find the strength they need. Thanks for sharing!

Cambria said...

Thank you for your faith.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I'm going through something similar. It hasn't resulted in my husband's death, but in a very public court case and his eventual incarceration. I've had to realize that my worth isn't found in my husband's eyes, or in our imperfect marriage or through public opinion. It's been hard and it's been humiliating to have my heartbreak published in the papers and talked about in the evening news, but reading your story makes me realize that I can get through this. I have intrinsic worth that has nothing at all do do with the people around me or my circumstances.
My husband has the opportunity to repent, and make amends. We have the chance to try again and to maybe salvage our marriage, and I'm grateful. I don't know yet if that will happen, but I'm hopeful. I wish I could email you!
Thank you again for your story. It really has helped me.

Lauri said...

Love this post! And I needed to hear it. Mostly your testimony at the end. I made a goal to serve more this year and now I know that I need to follow through with that goal. Thank you

Kristie H said...

Reading your story made me feel like I'd checked out a short story from heaven's library. It helped me refocus and let go of petty grievances. Thank you for giving when you have lost so much. It is certainly a reflection of God's influence in your life and will ripple out circles of hope to others as they read and forward. We still miss your family as our next door neighbors--I've learned some good life lessons from both you and your good mother. I send my love and prayers.

Renae S said...

Ashlee, your story is both heartbreaking and inspiring. You have handled your challenges with grace and dignity. I admire you for being able to tell your story and open your heart to the world. You are giving many people hope and courage. I can tell you have walked closely with the Lord, and he has given you strength, hope, peace and comfort as you have needed it. I pray that you and your children will continue to heal, and that you may live with the good memories of your life with Emmett. The healing power of the Atonement is amazing, isn't it?

You may remember me. I am L.Jay's sister-in-law, formerly Renae Meyers. My late husband Rich was the brother of Luann, L.Jay's late wife. I am happily remarried. My name is now Renae Shurtz.

Bless you, sweet girl!

Sarah said...

Thank you for your testimony. I am sure that you are a tremendous blessing in the lives of your children.

Anonymous said...

I love your focus on worth in this post. I have been married to a man who suffers from bipolar disorder for 23 years next month. It has been a long journey full of lies and deceit along with love and good. We have four wonderful children who have been hurt over and over again by watching their father break the word of wisdom, watch pornography, find girlfriends and have affairs. Some things are constant, others only happen when he is manic...but down this road I have learned one thing that I feel will heal all of us. That is the knowledge that I am the daughter of a Heavenly King who loves me and my worth is greater than i know. That phrase came to my mind during a very dark time...a message delivered by the holy ghost from a loving Heavenly Father who knew His daughter had forgotten. Since then I have realized this is part of the key to helping my children heal from the hurt and rejection they have suffered. Within the last couple of months I have begun to say this to each of them every night before bed and it has come to be a very special time for us. So thank you for sharing with us your knowledge of your own worth that has served as an anchor through your times of trauma and devastation.

Anonymous said...

I can't begin to imagine the crushing heartbreak that this has caused you.... But since coming across your blog it has been hard to shake the feelings of sadness that press on me each time my mind wanders to this situation. I am in awe of the strength you have shown, and the weakness that you have faced and overcome. Thank you for being strong enough to share this struggle with the world. Thank you for letting others see the heartbreak and hear good things and good memories of the man you fell in love with. It is easy for people to make assumptions and judgments about Emmett but that is not for anyone else to do. I think it is incredible that you have such a positive focus and have put so much positive light on him and on the good times that your family shared.

Anonymous said...

I am so, so sorry. This is one of the most difficult trails anyone could face. However being blessed with 5 healthy children will keep you reflective and busy. When you are -ready to find a partner, let me know. Cindy 574-9094

Geraldine Riding said...

Thank you for sharing your incredible story. I felt my heavenly Father's love for humanity. He never leaves his children, we are never alone.

Patrick Bryan said...

Your story really touched my heart. I have been struggling with my own "life-altering" decisions. Although I am not guilty of anything so drastic as murder, sometimes the weight of all the little things can add up. I made a series of decisions when I was younger that seriously limited my ability to change and make it back to the path I set out on and although I eventually made the choice to get back on the path (and it's been several years since) I still find myself wandering. I felt the spirit so strong when I read your story and I just know that the lesson you learned is the same lesson Heavenly Father has been trying to teach me all along. I think sometimes we can be intellectual experts on the gospel without having the spiritual understanding required to actually live the gospel and this is where my story begins. Thank you so much for sharing yours.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to tell you that your story is tragic and is so sad and is something that no one wants to experience. But I want you to know that Lord trusts you greatly to give you such an experience. May God bless you! Your family will be in my prayers and thank you for your powerful influence by sharing this experience. I hope that you and your family are well. And thank you for STANDING! I also want to share with you this scripture Phil. 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ that strengthenth me." The Lord is there for you and he will strengthen you! Because He knows you and Loves you and he knows you have worth! Thank you again.

Heather A said...

Thank you Ashlee for sharing your story. It brought my own memories and feelings to the surface, as my personal experience closely parallels yours. I too found myself in my closet on the night of my husband's death pleading for understand and peace. Knowing that the decisions I made that night would either strengthen my faith or cause me to lose it. Being a single mother and helping your children deal with loss is heartbreaking at times, but I am so grateful for the strength and insight that my daughter has given me. I know you and your children will be blessed and as you look back on your life you will see the "windows" that have been opened to you when you thought all the doors had shut. Never forget that the Lord loves you and will bless your righteous desires.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I have been faced with gut wrenching trials and in some places our stories parallel. I know I have been strengthened by many unseen angels, as I am sure you have as well. God bless you and your little family! Stay strong!

Anonymous said...

I don't doubt for one second that you felt true grief,but too many people die horrific deaths that are no fault of their own,and there is no god to help their loved ones.
Many people vanish without a trace,never to be seen again.I believe you believe,but that doesn't make it factual evidence.You have the right to believe in what you want,but this happened as the result of 3 people making bad decisions,that is all.
It is too bad that your heavenly father couldn't have stepped in to prevent it in the first place.

Jennifer Moeller said...

Wow, this one wins for d'bag comment of the year. If you have no faith, fine, but why do you need to come onto sn obviously religious blog and push your hopeless, cheerless atheism on a grieving woman?!

Darrin Smith said...

I saw this on a friend's facebook. As I was reading, it was a complete sideswipe as to where I thought the story was going to go. I appreciate you sharing and know that you are correct with your perspective. I try to live vicariously through other folk's personal stories. Thanks for aiding my personal growth through your own trials. I have become a better man because of your positive outlook on such a tragic event.

Darrin Smith said...

Jennifer, when that person passes on, and their spirit existence is still intact, that's when it will dawn on them. It is just a matter of time.

Suzanne Maughan said...

Wow. What an incredibly horrifying and strengthening story to read. I found your blog through one of my hero bloggers, My Name is Jacy. When my husband left me 6 months ago, I had some of the most despairing and life changing thoughts and I had no idea how I would ever make it. It was through my Heavenly Father and some very sweet experiences following that night that I am still holding it together today. I have faced a lot of heartache because of my almost-final divorce but I have faith. My motto these past 6 months has been 'I can do hard things'. I believe the same goes for you and every other person in this world. We can do hard things because Heavenly Father will always be with us and will make up the difference when we can't do it on our own.
I am extremely excited to see what you and Jacy have in the works. You are both incredible women.

Anonymous said...

Proof?

Bryce & Cherise said...

Thank you thank you thank you for sharing your experiences and your heart. You are incredible. I love so very much the words that were spoken to you through the spirit. I'm so grateful you were given the spiritual strength you needed to wake up each day and be a mama to your babies.
Like someone else already said, those last couple paragraphs were so inspired and written for me. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I think its obvious Emmett wasn't thinking religiously before he was killed. Perhaps this blogger is the kind of person Ashlee wants to help as advertised on KTVB. Perhaps this is a chance for Mormons to see beyond the comfort of their inner circles and seemingly perfect families in upper class suburbia.

Anonymous said...

To Darrin and Jennifer,
You have absolutely no idea about me or what I have gone through,I do not advertise it to anyone.Your ad hominem only proves to me your true self,that you see others who do not believe in your beliefs as beneath you,and not only that,that you wish immense pain on someone for not believing in the herd mentality.What kind of a god would punish someone for that? No god that i care to worship.Unlike you,I see the beauty in the world and all its majesty,but I am not blind to the harsh,ugly reality of it also.I value all sentient life forms,especially those who are exculpable of wrong doing to others
Ashlee,I truly am empathic to your families grief and the loss of your innocence and being robbed of something you treasured.Many of us have walked that path.
I too,turned and looked at the footprints in the sand,all I saw where my own.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe Ashlee is trying to force her beliefs on anyone. Most Christians have similar beliefs and would find her story inspiring and motivational. There doesn't need to be proof that god exists or that her religion is correct, but if you want an answer, according to a Christian, as to why God doesn't step in to prevent awful things like this, then the answer is "agency." God gives his children agency and he won't interfere with it in most cases. There are consequences, both earthly and eternal, for making bad choices, but he doesn't take away our ability to make those choices- we learn from making mistakes or choosing to do good things. We grow through experiences. God won't necessarily protect us from bad things, but he will always be available to help us through our trials. I am sorry if you only see your own "footprints" in the sand. What a sad way to live your life with no hope of a savior who can understand your heartaches and lift you from despair.

Anonymous said...

Wow... Thanks for sharing. Puts everything into its proper perspective.

More than a Mormon Mom said...

I've been reading for a while now, and just want to thank you for sharing your faith, testimony, and strength!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I can relate somewhat to the devastation infidelity can cause to someone's heart and soul. I too have felt the bitterness and hate and have also struggled with feelings of worthlessness and insecurity, Many times I wanted to die so that I would be free from the such suffering. I also had young children that my love for them kept me standing, hanging on for better days. After many years of riding emotional roller coasters I know that my Heavenly Father was there with me. I was able to keep moving forward (even in baby steps if need be) because I believed Him and tried to do what He wanted me to do. My life is sweet. I look back with gratitude for my testimony of the Savior and how my experience has brought me closer to Him. I appreciate that you share that the road to healing isn't easy and that there are setbacks and "relapses". We are not perfect beings yet but we are working on that with the help from Heaven. Thanks again for sharing.

Dulcinea del Toboso said...

Thank you, Ashlee <3

I need this. I need your strength..

Anonymous said...

Your blog is very powerful! Although I have had tremendous trials in my life I have experienced nothing compared to you! So I read this and tell myself, if she can get through that, I can get through this! But your last paragraph hit home to me on a much more first hand level! Thank you. It's just what I needed to hear, and it has been something that I have been trying to figure out for a little while now, and trying to figure out why! You have answered my why! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to thank you. I read your most recent blog post and then decided to go to the beginning and read from there. I have been dealing with some significant trials in my marriage for a very long time. It is heartbreaking to see my husband make poor choices and lie about them. I have felt so alone through this challenge, so betrayed and unloved and unwanted. Sometimes I wonder what I've done to deserve this trial in my life. Thank you for sharing your testimony of Heavenly Father's love for all of His children. I needed a reminder of my worth and today it came in the form of your blog.

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