March 10, 2014

I dream

One night as I slept, I had a series of dreams.
The first one was with me and Emmett and our children. It was a sunny Saturday morning, and Emmett was cleaning his new truck. The kids were playing in the street while we were outside washing the vehicle. Rob pulled up in his truck and without saying a word, he pulled out his gun and shot two bullets at Emmett. The babies and I sat there watching the entire thing . . . with no way to get away from it. We ran towards Rob, but he jumped back into his truck and drove away. Emmett just lay on the ground and didn’t move. I fell down beside him. He had a bullet in his forehead and one in his chest. His lungs were not moving. He was covered from head to toe in blood. He was dead. I sat with my face on his chest and screamed and cried . . . while my babies watched. I did not wake up.
In the next dream, we were at a park and Rob walked up to us. Without saying a word, he shot Emmett in the heart and in the head. Still asleep.
In the next one, Emmett and I and had stopped at Walgreens to grab some drinks on the way to the movie theater. As we walked out to our car, there Rob was . . . waiting for us. Without saying a word, he shot Emmett in the heart and in the head. I still didn’t wake up.

The next dream started out with us at a family reunion. All of Emmett’s family was gathered at the cabin on Bear Lake. We were laughing and talking, and the kids were running around everywhere. It was a perfect day, just like many others we had spent at the lake. We were all getting ready to head down to the water when a truck pulled up. Without saying a word, Rob got out of his truck and ran toward us. By now, I knew what was coming and I started to scream. “Rob . . . No . . . please, please let this just be a dream. … Please stop. Just talk with him Rob . . . and he will listen. I am right here, I need you to stop. Rob, I know you are scared. I know you are hurting . . . but please put down that gun and look at me. You have never met me before . . . but I know why you are here . . . and I need you to stop. I hope this is just a dream. Please Rob . . . I am begging you. I need him. … Please don’t shoot!”
All of Emmett’s family members were frozen. They had no idea of what I knew was coming. It was like everyone was moving in slow motion: Rob running toward Emmett, my words, his family looking at me like I was crazy, and the kids following me as I chased him. Without saying a word, Rob took out his gun and he shot . . . in slow motion . . . two bullets. One hit Emmett in the head . . . and I watched it sink into his skull. The next bullet came immediately afterwards, and I saw it pierce Emmett’s skin and sink deep into his heart.
Wake up Ashlee . . . Please wake up. This is just a dream. It isn’t real. Everything is going to be okay. You just have to WAKE up. I couldn’t wake myself up. I walked around, and everyone was still moving in slow motion. Every tear fell like it was made of syrup. Every scream was drawn out and deep. The pain inside of my heart felt as if I were watching all of these people grieving for the very first time. We sat there on the beach staring at Emmett’s dead body, with no one knowing what to do. Our five children knelt at his side weeping tears over his dead, lifeless body.

When I finally woke up, I lay back in bed, sick to my stomach. That dream wasn’t real . . . but the ending was real, and it had already happened. Emmett had been shot by a gun: once in the heart, and once in the head. As much as I tried to ignore it, that fact was real . . . and that was why he was gone.
I had a dream . . . but it wasn’t a dream for the betterment of this world, or a dream where I could make a difference for anyone. No I had a dream that haunted me. Its power weighed heavily on my mind. Emmett was gone . . . and that wasn’t going to change. No matter how many times my dreams tried to change the scenario . . .  the ending was always the same.
I lay in my bed for a long time . . . not knowing how to get out of the horrible cycle. I thought of all my life’s dreams that had been shattered by those two bullets. I thought about the hopes that had built my family and the dreams for our future, which were now just a distant memory.

I can remember exactly where I was, when as a young teen, I experienced the moment when my dream was written. I was sitting in a Young Women’s class and we were talking about setting goals and reaching for our dreams. Our teachers had given us a photo of ourselves with a transparent picture of the temple covering our photo. I knew right then and there that I would not give up until all of my dreams had been fulfilled. On that day, I wrote out in my mind a laundry list, a bucket list, of all the things I would do before I died.
Getting married was at the top of it my list. I had dreamed of the life I would have as a young mother and an adoring wife. I imagined what my children would look like, and I pictured growing old one day and becoming a grandmother.

I never dreamed of having anything more than the life I actually had on the afternoon of March 11, 2011. I was living my dreams. I never wanted to change the world or become the first female president. I never hoped to run a corporation. My dreams were about dirty diapers and spit-up on my shirt. I had dreamed of being surrounded by little arms that needed me in every way. I even loved being a poor student with Emmett. I wanted to struggle through school together . . . because that meant we needed each other. I loved that we had lived in tiny apartments with a bunch of little kids. We had cooked Top Ramen and eaten it by candlelight. We had pinched pennies to buy bookshelves from thrift stores. My dream had always been to have my own garden and to teach my babies how to make things grow. I loved preparing meals and scrubbing floors. I dreamed of nothing more than a simple life . . . and it was right there. I had it. I had reached my dream.
On that fateful day, I spent my morning picking out laundry baskets for a new and improved laundry system I had developed for my newly-expanded family. I was so excited to have matching baskets in which I could organize and separate everyone’s laundered clothes. As I walked to my car—giddy that I had found exactly what I’d been looking for—I couldn’t wait to show my purchases to Emmett . . . and I hoped the baskets would be as exciting to him as they were to me.
However, what I didn’t know as I skipped to my car that morning, was that my dream to make my laundry room beautiful and new . . . would be a dream I would never have the opportunity of sharing with my husband. He would never see those baskets full of clean clothes that I couldn’t wait to show him. That little dream . . . was one I would never enjoy.

 (One of Tytus' only pictures with him.)

I remember a few times as a child going to a Broadway show with my father called Les Misérables. It has become one of my all-time favorite memories with my dad, and I have grown to love the show’s music and storyline. It is about a man who went from being a prisoner to becoming a prominent and successful businessman in his society. There is one particular song from Les Misérables that has come to my mind a lot in the past three years, a song, which unfortunately, I have been able to relate to on many levels. One of the female characters in the musical, Fantine, sings about the dreams she had hoped for as a young woman, after those hopes have all been destroyed

There was a time when men were kind

When their voices were soft

And their words inviting

There was a time when love was blind

And the world was a song

And the song was exciting

There was a time

Then it all went wrong

I dreamed a dream in time gone by

When hope was high

And life worth living

I dreamed that love would never die

I dreamed that God would be forgiving

Then I was young and unafraid

And dreams were made and used and wasted

There was no ransom to be paid

No song unsung, no wine untasted

But the tigers come at night

With their voices soft as thunder

As they tear your hope apart

As they turn your dream to shame

He slept a summer by my side

He filled my days with endless wonder

He took my childhood in his stride

But he was gone when autumn came

And still I dream he’ll come to me

That we will live the years together

But there are dreams that cannot be

And there are storms we cannot weather

I had a dream my life would be

So different from this hell I’m living

So different now from what it seemed

Now life has killed the dream I dreamed

At times, life will seem to kill our dreams. The night Emmett was shot in the heart and head will forever stand in my memories as the pinnacle moment of losing my dreams. It was my darkest hour. It was the moment when I lost hope in all my plans . . . and the moment when all the darkness of the world seemed to destroy the passion I had for any dream I have ever hoped to achieve.

We all have dreams we hope to realize. We spend our lives creating them in our minds . . . praying they will all come true. Some of these dreams will remain inside of us . . . while others will play out just as we planned.

There will be many of us who wait a long time for our biggest dreams to come true, and there will be times when we aren’t able to achieve even our smallest dreams. Life doesn’t always wait around and ask us what our dreams are . . . because usually, life just happens.
Some of us might have every single dream we have ever wished for when we’ve blown out a candle or wished upon a star . . . unfold before our very eyes. Everything we ever thought we wanted . . . actually staring us in the face. We have our dreams in our laps . . . and everything feels close to perfect. Aside from the fact that in his last few months, Emmett seemed to be struggling with what I thought was a mid-life crisis . . . I had reached that point. I was living every single dream I had ever dreamed. I was scrubbing toilets and I was buying laundry baskets . . . and it was amazing. I was living my dreams . . . but on that horrible night, all of those dreams were shattered by two shots of a gun.

Dreams can be as big as five kids and a mini-van . . . or as small as celebrating the hard work of redoing your laundry room. It doesn’t matter how small our dreams seem to others, they are all significant to us. That is what makes them OUR dreams. We made the plans, we had the hopes . . . and we are making them happen.
Some walk this life constantly seeking a dream they may never receive; sometimes even the worthy goals we set for ourselves will not be met on this earth. The yearning for a dream that may never come is a lonely cry. At some time or another, we will all experience the moment when we realize that a dream we have been seeking will never be, or when a dream we have lived is lost forever. It is a desolate feeling that you can only understand after you have been there . . . standing alone.
Dreams will come every single night as we sleep . . . but other kinds of dreams will also be in our minds, as we hope for bright future paths to walk.
Christ’s love for you is not based on your merits in mortality, and He doesn’t love you any more just because you reach your goals. He may be excited that you have worked hard and have consequently received certain blessings, but His love for you is not because of your titles, degrees, recognitions, or medals. His love is unconditional. He loved you long before you even set your goal. He believed in you before you got the prize. He saw worth in you long before you gained the recognition, earned the degree, or received the title.

Heavenly Father knows there are moments when you stand alone . . .  feeling like you haven’t accomplished any of the things you set out to do when you were younger. He hurts that you cannot see your worth even when you have not achieved the merits you seek. He isn’t sad that you aren’t where you want to be . . . He hurts because you can’t see that where you are is enough.
Even if every dream you have ever hoped for feels like it is impossible . . . or if every dream you have ever lived . . . feels like it has been taken away . . . you haven’t reached the end. Tonight as you go to sleep, a new chapter of dreams might begin. Don’t spend your life waiting for the dreams you long to be living; live the dreams that you wake up with each morning. Don’t wait for your dreams to come true to see His hand in your life. Yes, it is good to have goals and hopes for yourself . . . but don’t let the dreams that remain to be achieved . . . hold you back from living the roles you are playing right now.
Dreams are meant to add to your happiness . . . not to be the goal you must achieve before you can be happy. Happiness is where you are, right now, today. Maybe you are working at a job you hate with people who annoy you. Maybe you are “just” a mom and you dream of a life that you see on the big screen. Maybe you are a dad who wishes your kids could see how hard you work for them. Maybe you are a single parent doing it all alone . . . with no one there to cheer you on or give you praise for your sacrifices. Maybe you are a grandma who lives across the ocean from any of the tiny hugs you long to receive. Maybe you are a young high school boy who sits alone in your room . . . wondering why you don’t have any friends, or a teenage girl who has never had a first kiss. Maybe you are a lonely man sitting in a jail cell wondering why you made the decisions you made that got you there. Whoever you are and wherever you stand . . . find a reason to smile. Today may be all you have left of the dreams you have already achieved.
Those dreams that night freaked the crap out of me. They shook me to the core for days, but one thing they helped me realize is that it could have been worse. What if Rob had brought a gun to our house and we had all been forced to watch as he shot Emmett? What if we had been at a family reunion and Emmett’s cousins and aunts and uncles had witnessed his death? Our story was tragic . . . but what if it had been even more tragic? I came to understand that its plot was the simple version of what could have been even worse.

Life is going to be hard. It is going to knock you down. There will be days when you will not see the good in the moments you stand . . . but eventually, you can still find a reason to smile again.
I have a dream that one day, selfishness will not destroy families. I have a dream that we will be true to the promises we make. I have a dream that people will be real, honest, and kind. I have a dream that no one will ever feel abandoned, rejected, or not good enough. I have a dream that the people of this world will fight the darkness that tries to destroy us . . . and hold fast to the power that can make our dreams come true. Dreams never die.
There will be days when it feels like all of your dreams are lost. You may be standing in your darkest hour right now . . . waiting for hope that even your smallest dream can still exist. I promise you that better days await you. Don’t give up on yourself . . . and don’t give up on the light that is still all around you. Even if every dream you have ever dreamed seems to have been shattered before your eyes . . . you still have a reason to live. You are enough . . . all by yourself. Jesus Christ has felt your pain. He has heard your cries. He knows where it hurts . . . because he has been right where you are. Don’t give up on Him. He is right there. Pray for the light to help you see His hand extended to you through the darkness. And when you find it . . . grab on and never let it go. He will carry you to the dreams He has prepared for you. They may be different from the ones you planned for yourself . . . but they will be perfect, because His plan is greater than any we could create for ourselves. He is the healer of our pain and the writer of our script; live the dreams he has orchestrated just for you.



Regan said...

Thinking of you and yours this week, Ashlee. Thank you for your kind and wise words. (:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the time and energy it took to share these memories and thoughts, along with your testimony. I have been checking multiple times a day, everyday since your last post on March 3rd. So grateful to see this post come through!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for reminding me that plan b or even c can still be good, and that the things that have happened in my life could have been worse. Thank you for your example. I tell myself all the time "if she can get through that, I can get through this."

Anonymous said...

Thinking of you and your sweet babies today.

Anonymous said...

May the Lord wrap His arms around each of you today.

Anonymous said...

I have sang and played "I dreamed a dream" time and time again over the past few years. I, too, have struggled with the grief of losing my dreams. I'm almost divorced now with 3 small children. Your posts touch me to my core. I adore you. Thank you for writing.

Anonymous said...

Ashlee, you are a true inspiration, since valentines of this year, I was told from my husband of 22 years , that he is in love with someone else, needless to say I am heartbroken. I am so grateful for you and your blog, you have no idea how many people you are helping! You are an Amazing, Beautiful, Child of God, Thank you for reminding us all that we are too. I love you, looking forward to all your future posts! !!

heather said...

I truly love your thoughts. Since reading your blog, I have made changes in my life. I have been prompted to make them for months, and then when I started your blog, I made them. So far, they have made my life better. Thank you so much for being a true servant of our Heavenly Father. I feel so much love for you and we haven't even met. Thank you, Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. I needed to hear them today...

Krysta said...

Ashlee you are so strong and an amazing example to me! Thank you so much for your posts! I'm thinking of you and your sweet babies today!

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely amazing and your words have caused me to rethink my own. Prayers and thanks to you and your beautiful family.

Unknown said...

I read your entire blog from start to finish in 2 days. You are so inspiring. You should make this into a book!!!

Unknown said...

You and your babies are in my prayers today. Thank you for sharing. Your thoughts are truly inspiring!!

Lisa said...

You are remarkable. I have sung that song many times with tears flowing down my face. Your writings validate my feelings so much. We share a similar story- only instead of my husband being killed- he tried to kill me and make it look like a suicide. I almost didn't survive- but am so grateful Heavenly Father worked miracles in my behalf so I could raise my children.
Years ago, I searched high and low for something like this blog to help me through. You are fulfilling a special mission with these writings. I know you said if you can help just one person, it will be worth it. I just want you to know that your words have blessed my life so much. I know it cannot be easy for you to re-live the memories and I am grateful for your willingness to follow the Spirit to be an instrument in helping Heavenly Father's children who are struggling...your work is inspired. You are an angel. Your children are so blessed to have such a strong, faithful mother.

Anonymous said...

Thinking of you and your family today! Keep noticing those tender mercies and little blessings. I hope they bring a smile to your face today! Sending love to you and your family!

Kendra said...

Just looked at the calendar and realize it is March 11th. Thinking of you and your family today. Your blog is one I found through Ashley Sullenger and since then I have been sharing it with everyone I know. Your testimony and example is truly hastening the work. I am continually blown away by your faith. I know you are changing many lives through your testimony. Thank you for being willing to share it so openly and honestly. I am grateful that you are so bold in stating what you believe and know to be true. I hope that when trials come my way in the future I can remember your example and stand when all I want to do is give up.

Kendra said...

By the way.....trying to post a comment to your blog was really tricky to figure out. It showed me the letters I needed to type to prove that I wasn't a robot but wouldn't let me scroll down to type the letters. I finally figured out that if I typed and hit enter it would fill in the blank below and if I was wrong then it would finally show me the space that needed to be filled in. Figured it out but I am sure many would get frustrated and give up.

Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you for this. I just miscarried on Saturday. Coupled with the fact that this was my second miscarriage in the last six months has really been hard. Thank you for helping me realize that I can still dream of a baby. Thank you for reminding me that Christ knows my specific pain. You words were a blessing to me tonight.

Christina said...

I have thought of you and your babies all day today. You are an amazing person and a perfect example of what good is. May God bless you today and everyday. Thank you for sharing your story, it has reached my soul and has helped me in so many ways.

Anonymous said...

I think today is the anniversary of your husband traffic death. Know that you are in the thoughts of so many people. Thank you for all you are sharing. May God continue to bless you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. Should say, husbands tragic

Anonymous said...

I can't even remember how I stumbled on your blog. A post on Facebook maybe? I have been reading it non stop and finished it over the weekend. Thank you for the inspiration you are. I can't even imagine this, and your strength has helped build my faith. Thank you for sharing your story. you are an amazing woman.

oz_fam said...

My friend sent me the link to your blog and all I can say is WOW. You are so incredible, really you are. I can't imagine the heart ache you and your family have gone through but while reading this I'm grateful you have such an amazing support all around you. You and your sweet babies are in my prayers. Thank you for sharing.

Katie said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I watched your dateline episode a while back and couldn't get your family out of my mind. I can't imagine experiencing what you have been through. Your faith through it all is so inspiring. I know you will change peoples lives with your strength and testimony of Jesus Christ. You have inspired me. Thank you. My prayers are with you and your sweet family.

Anonymous said...

My husband cheated on me years ago. We managed to hold our marriage together, and it is now stronger than ever. It still hurts that he did that. As I read how you still loved Emmett so much even after all he did I wondered briefly how that was possible. But as I thought about it, I remembered that though I was hurting I still just loved him like always and couldn't imagine my life without him. Then it made sense. :) It is a hard thing to live through, but is also one of the greatest tests of who you are right down to your core. I learned a lot about myself and gained a lot of self confidence through the experiences I had. I just had to.

Well, unfortunately, there are lasting effects from it all. It still hurts and our children will have to know about it someday. And now we are dealing with some lies that a girl told the bishop and stake president about my husband. Because of my husband's past, the stake president is reluctant to believe him. It has been 9 months since we started dealing with him, and he still just leaves us waiting with no assignments. And when we do visit with him we leave with a huge weight of hopelessness. It is quite discouraging. Our baby is 6 months old, and we have been waiting so my husband can bless him, but it doesn't look probable. And we just had our fourth son baptized and our second son is about to turn 12. My husband was not able to participate in the baptism, and he won't be able to participate in the ordination either. We are simply stuck. All we can do is pray.

In my mind I can't help but think, "Well, if he hadn't been dumb in the first place we wouldn't be in this mess." But that hardly seems fair as he has repented and tries every day to make it right. He has worked hard to gain trust back, and the Spirit tells me that my husband is telling the truth. I am sure trying to have faith, but for a stake president who won't listen? Oh, I am heartbroken.

glenda said...

Thinking of you and your children today. Much peace & comfort. You are enough!

Kenzie J Howell said...

I've read your blog front to back the night I found it, took me about 5 hours.
I couldn't put my phone down or shut off my computer until I read every word. Ashlee you are so very inspiring, you have touched my heart in so many ways. I think about you and your family daily. I pray that you

Kenzie J Howell said...

I pray that you and your beautiful family can continue to find peace and healing. You are so strong & you are enough. What a beautiful woman of God. Hugs to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Amazing perspective. So very helpful.

Christine said...

Ashlee, I love reading your thoughts as it helps me in my daily life. I was wondering how your children are healing and growing today. They are all so beautiful and I would love for my children to see and read how children their own age handle trials that are much harder then anything they have ever encountered.

Anonymous said...

So sad to hear of your current trial. I just wanted you to know that there are groups out there of women who have gone through, are going through or have overcome very similar situations. We meet through You would be welcomed with open arms. Simply go to the site and email via the contact link with a message expressing an interest to join a group. They are free and anonymous...first names only. A very safe and supportive place. The groups meet physically in Utah or you can call from anywhere in the world

Anonymous said...

Hold onto that feeling that the spirit is giving to you. I, too, have had an experience where those around us questioned my husbands integrity over an incident and the spirit told me to believe him over those around us. I just wanted to let you know I've been down that road. You are not alone. All will be made right through the atonement. Thank you for reminding me that when it have my doubts that I did have a confirmation from the Holy Ghost.

Olie Olie Olson said...

Ashlee, I stumbled upon your blog just shortly after you started it. Your story hit me to the core. I cried while reading your first entry. I am of the same faith and I got married just a few months after you and Emmett did. You spoke about not knowing about kandi, and not once did I think "how did you not know." Truth is you, like myself know the kind of guy we married, strong in his beliefs and frankly we trust them. After all that is what marriage is about, trust. Satan is cruel and his temptations are relentless. The fact is your story could happen to anyone. I'm not trying to down play your struggles, moreover none of us are exempt. I can imagine the courage it has taken for you to start and continue this blog, I commend you and am thankful to have found it. The strength in your testimony is a blessing. You are brave, you are strong, an amazing mother. Thank you for sharing your heart with the world!

Anonymous said...

Ashlee, I never saw your story on dateline and am not of the same faith however your story pulls at my heart. Like you I am a victim of infidelity and am working through the emotions that come with such knowledge. I was directed to your blog by a friend who has no idea what I am going through. The lord works in mysterious ways and send angels to us in many different forms. I was meant to read your story and it has brought me great comfort. Thank you.

Pam said...

Thanks you Ashley for sharing your story, thoughts, feelings and hopes and dreams. It is very inspiring and is a hopeful reminder of Christ's Atonement for all of us! God bless you and your sweet family!

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