January 11, 2014

Whispers of Love

It was crazy that during the very week when all I wanted to do was lie in bed in the fetal position—and try to figure out where to begin to grieve—I also had an endless list of responsibilities to accomplish. I felt like I didn’t even have a minute to sit down and think, which at the time, I hated. However, looking back, that lack of time to think probably saved my life. I had to do the normal stuff that needs to be done when a person passes away: calls to phone companies to turn off Emmett’s—and ironically Kandi’s—cell phones. Meetings with bankers to try to figure out the best way to create bank accounts to allow me to be the representative to pay off clients whose cases were not complete. Meetings with the office to try to decide who and what individuals needed their money back. Cleaning out Emmett’s office. Meeting with the mortuary to plan the funeral.

Then I had a separate list of responsibilities that had to do with the murder investigation. Meetings with detectives. Answering questions about everything I knew. I wanted them to have every piece of information I could give them. I wanted the truth to be told, so that they had everything they needed to do their job to the very best of their abilities. I told them every detail of my side of the story, and everything I knew about the three individuals involved.

It was like being in a dream when I walked into the mortuary. I ordered the programs, picked out the casket and flowers. I kind of sat there pretending like I was an actress, and that this wasn’t really happening. I had a lump in my throat the entire time we were there. My stepfather drove me home, and tears just slid down my cheek. How was this real? I couldn’t plan a funeral! I wouldn’t! On that drive home, I made up my mind to just pretend that it wasn’t real, and to procrastinate long enough for someone else to come plan the funeral for me. I felt that if I could just ignore it . . . then maybe it all wouldn’t be real. I wasn’t able to deal with the finality of deciding who would speak, and who would say the closing prayer. I wasn’t going to do it, and that was final.

We walked into the house. I went into my room to feel sorry for myself for a little bit. I lay down on my bed. Tears welled up in my eyes and slid down, soaking my pillow. All of the sudden, I got this strong impression. GRAB A PEN. I grabbed a paper and a pen and I started to write. Within about five minutes, every detail of the funeral was written down on my paper. Every name of the pallbearers, every speaker, and the order of those who would speak. Even down to who would dedicate the grave. I didn’t do any of it. My pen just wrote, as I continued to sob.

I walked out of my room to type up my husband’s funeral. As I read it out loud, I felt the spirit so strongly. It was exactly how Emmett would have wanted it. It all made sense. He knew I couldn’t do this job by myself . . . so he did it for me.

The day of the viewing arrived. My biggest fear was that Kandi would show up—that she would try to come and steal yet another day from me. It consumed me as I got ready. At one point, I had thought the viewing should be closed-casket because of the location of the bullet holes, but with make-up, the morticians had done an amazing job with his appearance.

I got there early to have some time alone with him. I yelled. I cried. Alone in a room with a body. How did we get here? Why did this have to be the end of everything on which I had worked so hard? I am not sure how long I spent in there, and I have no idea of who could hear me. It felt good to shout at him. It felt good to tell him how mad I was that he had put me through all of this. I blamed him for the hours I had spent that week with detectives instead of with our children. I wanted to hit him. I wanted to hold him. I wanted to shake him and tell him that he couldn’t do this to me. He couldn’t leave me alone! He had promised to help me throughout this life. He had promised to take care of me. He had promised me that we would have it all.

The viewing began. I was still alone. His family members began trailing in the room. Some were mad and yelled at me for having the casket open. Others wouldn’t come talk to me. All of us were dealing with our emotions in our own ways. They huddled in a corner, so I stood by his casket alone. People began to trickle in. No one really knew what to say. Everyone was crying. Not me. I somehow believed that I had to be strong for all these people who had come to say goodbye to their friend, their neighbor, their boss, their cousin, their son. I thought that maybe if I could be strong, they could all make it though their own grief. Then in walked my mom. She ran over and grabbed my hand. My throat burned from holding back tears. I had to fight them off. My face was on fire.

People streamed in from all over. People from our past. People from our current life. Hundreds of hugs. I felt the love and strength each person brought, but I wasn’t about to show them I was weak. I was in zombie mode. I wasn’t comforting anyone . . . I was a stone wall. My friend Lyric had collected pictures and made a video to some of our favorite songs. All of the sudden, they turned it on . . . and that’s when the dam burst. My tears didn’t just start sliding down my face—they poured. All the emotion that had been bottled inside me up to this point came flying out. Now as I hugged people, I actually let them in. I needed them. Each hug spoke to my soul. You are loved. You can do this. We are here for you. And my soul began to speak back. I am thankful for your love. I need you. Thanks for being here for me today.

I wasn’t alone. I had thousands of people who believed in me. I had so many who came because they loved me. They loved Emmett. They loved these kids.

I had the kids stay in the playroom so people could go see them after they visited with Emmett. I didn’t want them to see their Dad this way. A decision I would later question . . . but what I felt at that time was the best decision. When the viewing was over and the casket was closed, we brought in the kids. I don’t know that they totally comprehended what it was we were doing. They just wanted to touch the casket and try to look inside. Everyone in the room just stopped and watched them. The children were tender as they whispered to the box. They whispered about memories. They talked about love.

In our faith, soon after a baby is born, the father gives that child a name and blessing, something Emmett had not had the opportunity to do. So, I asked my brother Jeff to bless Tytus. A huge group of men came and surrounded the casket. With Emmett in the middle of it all, Jeff gave Tytus the blessing his father couldn’t. It was a tender moment for me. I don’t think it made sense to anyone else, but for me it was beautiful. It allowed Emmett to be a part of one last thing with our baby boy: the baby he would never see take his first bite of food or first steps. He would miss it all.

No one seemed to want to leave. We all just kind of stood there waiting. The funeral director finally ushered everyone out to their cars. I don’t think anyone knew what to do with themselves.

One thing I remember about that night was my stepsister Rachel playing with my hair. I just laid myself face down on my couch and she ran her fingers threw my hair . . . over and over. It was the first time all week that I actually felt relaxed, like I was in another place. The tears still flowed, but for once I wasn’t thinking at all.


I had many family members staying with me that night, but my tears didn’t stop until long after they had gone to bed and were asleep. I sat in my room wide-eyed. I wondered how I would handle another day of tears. I wondered how the funeral would go the next day. I didn’t know how I could possibly be strong enough to take this another day. I had to make it through one more day . . . just one more day.

6 comments:

Ashley Sullenger said...

Ashlee,

This morning I was sent a link to your blog. Since then, I've been reading. My name is also Ashley, we also have twins (5 months old) and in 2010 we lost our daughter in accidental drowning. And though losing a daughter the way that we did is completely different than your situation, I just wanted to send my love.

I too understand grief, and that it's hard, it's exhausting, it doesn't make sense. I too am grateful for our Savior, who has stood by us, sent angels to surround us, and continue to help and teach us. I can relate to so many of your emotions and experiences that my heart is aching for you.

Keep your chin up, though it seems impossible at times. All I could keep thinking while I read your story is how lucky your kids are to have you in their life.

"The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude."
- Joseph B Wirthlin

A hundredfold.

Love,
Ashley Sullenger

Leslie said...

ashee, you don't know how much you sharing your experiences has touch me so profoundly...thank you for sharing and bringing to light how we still can carry through even in the depth of despair with the help our Heavenly Father.

Heather Maile said...

Holy cow Ashlee...I remember pulling up to the mortuary straight from Logan. There was definitely a special spirit at Tytus's blessing.So glad we could be a part of it. Look how far you've come! You're amazing inside and out! ;) love always-Heather Maile

Kendra said...

Ashlee, you are so inspiring! I love you and am so proud of you for keeping the faith and enduring. You are such a beautiful talented women and you should make these blog posts into a book when you're done! I think it could bless so many people. Love Kendra

Anonymous said...

Hi Ashlee,
I don't know you, but your words are truly inspiring. I too have dealt with a great loss. Almost 4 years ago I lost my fiancé. He had an enlarged heart and an irregular heartbeat, and at 23 years old went to sleep and went into cardiac arrest. The paramedics were unable to revive him. It was a devastating blow. Although our stories are much different, I can relate to the emotions of loss. I am amazed at how your religion has helped you in your healing process. I turned away from mine angry at G-d for taking such an incredible man. Thank you for sharing your story. You sound like such an amazing, strong woman.

Kate said...

My cousin Lenae posted a link to your blog. Thank you for sharing your story and your faith. It is amazing how do much beauty (your love, faith and forgiveness) can be made from such heartache.

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