June 4, 2014


One afternoon, I got a call from the detectives letting me know that Rob had requested the release of his truck after it had been held as evidence. I stubbornly shot back my response to that information. “Well, then I request the release of Emmett’s truck as well.” I wasn’t sure that I was really ready to have his brand new truck returned, but I certainly didn’t want Rob to be getting a privilege while “out on bond” that I myself wasn’t receiving as a law-abiding citizen of our community.

Within days, my request was approved and the detectives called to say they were on their way to deliver the truck back to me. I was nervous to see it again. I was afraid of what I would find inside, and I was scared of how my body would react to having that truck parked in my driveway again. Most importantly, I was nervous to drag Shawn through another reminder of my past.

I paced around the house, trying to mentally prepare myself. Soon, there was a knock at my door. My heart pounded as I opened it to the familiar faces of the detectives from the police department. I walked outside, followed by Teage. Kaleeya and Tytus were asleep and the twins were at school, and we didn’t have Jordyn that day. So it was just Teage and me.

The detectives and I chit-chatted for a few minutes while Teage peeked inside the truck’s windows. They told me they had run it through a carwash on their way over to make certain that all of Emmett’s blood had been washed off before I saw it. Just the thought of his blood being on the side of the truck made my own blood grow cold. Shivers ran down my spine and goose bumps popped out all over me. I glanced over toward the truck, trying hard not to get emotionally involved as they talked about the blood that had been on it.

They were very thoughtful and caring as we talked for a few more minutes, and then they headed out. As they drove off, I stood near the vehicle with the keys burning my hand like hot coals. Teage begged me to let him get inside the truck to see what he could find. At first, I resisted to protect my son and myself. I stood frozen, with a million thoughts running through my mind.

That truck almost stood there mocking me. It had seen it all. It had carried the victim straight into the line of fire. It was as black as the hole it made in my heart.

I thought back to the day Emmett had first pulled it into the driveway. He was so proud to finally have his dream car. He had talked about it for years, and finally the time had come. He walked me through every detail of his new prized possession. He showed me how to push every button, and talked up all the special features that were included in his purchase. He was so proud of it in every way.

 I pictured the afternoon he had packed the back seat with kids and taken the three oldest to a BSU game. They were so excited to be going with their daddy. I thought about our date nights we spent driving around town. I pictured the false alarm nights we drove down to the hospital thinking Tytus was coming . . . and all of the long drives back home after being turned away. I smiled as I pictured my doughnut dropping crumbs all over that truck. It was a meager trophy for another rejection from the hospital, but it was all my prego belly needed to patiently wait for the next drive it would take in that truck down to the hospital.

I pictured that truck as it drove up to Walgreens on the night of Emmett's death. All of the sudden Teage tried to grab the keys out of my hands, which quickly snapped me out of my funk. I looked down at him, remembering our cathartic day at Walgreens. That day had turned out to be a leap of healing, and I could feel this one was going to need such a blessing. I stared into his giant blue eyes. I could see the longing he had in his heart, to be in his daddy’s truck. I almost chuckled to myself to think that I was ever going to change his mind, “You know what buddy? Here we go!”

I unlocked the passenger-side door and pulled it open. The truck still smelled new. Emmett’s gym bag was in the back seat, and the entire truck looked exactly like it had the last time I had been inside it. I sat in the passenger seat while Teage jumped into the back. My breathing became heavier, and I could feel myself begin to panic. I asked Teage if he was ready to go back inside the house, but he replied that he wasn’t ready. I tried to remain calm and then asked him a few more times.

Teage wouldn’t get out. He refused to leave the truck. For a few minutes, I continued to calmly beg him to go inside with me, and then it hit me . . . I needed this too.

So now, I had a silent partner who craved the search for clues almost more than I did. He rummaged through the back seat, while I read every receipt and went through all of the console compartments I could find. I knew that all the evidence needed for the case would have been kept at the police department, but I searched for more clues anyway.

It was almost like I had been building a puzzle. Each bit of information and every new fact that would arise would give me another piece. Having that truck parked in front of my house was like finding a missing piece to my puzzle.  I had run out of things to read in the box in the garage, and after my bad experience with Emmett’s email account, I vowed to never go looking there ever again. The truck gave me a desire to search a whole new realm of the past.

I turned the ignition on and pushed play on the CD player. The music had Emmett’s typical punk flavor, but with a romantic twist. It was a song I had never heard before. I pushed eject. The CD had been made the day of his death, and the date was written in his own handwriting. I cringed thinking about that. Had this CD been made for her?

Suddenly, my phone alarm went off, reminding me that it was time to go pick up the twins from school. I grabbed Teage out of the back seat and we ran inside to wake up the babies. They were both in a deep sleep. I disliked waking them up to go only a block to pick up the twins, but even more so on that day . . . I hated being forced to leave my search.

I got everyone buckled in their seats and we drove off to the school. I called Shawn on the way to share some of my emotions with him. He listened calmly and reassured me that everything was going to be okay. I got a little emotional and said, “This is so hard. I didn’t realize it was going to be so hard to have the truck back.”

The twins jumped into the car, and at the top of his lungs, Teage chirped, “Guys . . . Daddy’s truck is home! Want to play in it and pretend that he is driving us somewhere, when we get home?”

My heart sank. Here we go again. I knew that we were going to have another interesting night filled with memories of the past, but nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. I ended my conversation with Shawn just as we turned onto our street.

We pulled up into the driveway and parked in the garage. The kids hurried out of our Yukon and booked it to their dad’s truck, dropping their backpacks as they ran. They hopped inside, and for thirty minutes they rummaged through his stuff. They tried on his clothes, tied his tie around their necks, put his earphones in their ears, read all of the receipts, and pushed every button in that truck. They were having fun playing with his stuff, and I was actually enjoying myself as I listened to their laughter.

A short time later, Shawn’s truck pulled up. I was surprised to see him home so early, and I knew he had come to comfort me. He stepped out and I was surprised to see that he was as white as a ghost. I had feared the return of this truck might affect him as well. In many ways, he already felt like he was a replacement for Emmett . . . and now here Emmett’s truck sat in front of our house as a loud reminder of the past. 

He began to run toward me. He grabbed me and pulled me toward the house. “Ash . . . there is blood all over the other side of the truck. You can’t see it from this side, but it is all over the other side. Have the kids seen it?”

My throat began to close up. “No! What are we going to do? We haven’t gone over to that side. They CANNOT see it! That is their dad’s blood. I . . . I . . . can’t handle this . . .” I burst into tears and ran toward the truck. The kids were so into their make-believe, that they didn’t notice the tears in my eyes. I slowly walked around to the other side. Sure enough, the carwash had not removed the blood from the truck. As plain as day, Emmett’s truck was covered in his blood.

My heart dropped. I lost it. I don’t remember anything from that moment on, but soon I found myself running through my room and into my sanctuary. I was hysterical . . . again . . . alone in my closet. This time, I wasn’t in there begging for a “do-over.” I was begging for a “when is this going to be over?”

I had been in that closet so many times, but never before with a visual of the blood that Emmett had lost. My heart had hurt for the unknown of the past, but never before because of what I had viewed with my own eyes. Having that truck back was hard, but knowing that it carried the blood stains of a man that I loved was almost more than I could bear. I knew the mess of the past was not over, but I hadn’t known it was going to be so apparent on the side of that truck.

Here we were, trying so hard to move forward and gain ground from our past . . . and here was yet another bold, red, reminder of the blood that had been spilt. A literal reminder. I have no idea how long I stayed there in my closet, but I do know I was surprised that I could still shed so many tears.

I was again reminded that just because I had remarried and hoped for a new normal, that didn’t mean it was an overnight process. Every tear I shed that day was just as hard as the ones that had come before I met Shawn.

Once I calmed down, I knew I needed to get outside to help the kids in case they were also having a hard time. I swallowed the last of my tears and started to make my way outside. I went to the front window to scope out the situation. I wasn’t sure if anyone else had seen the blood, or how they were handling it, if they had.

I looked outside at a scene that is almost impossible to put into words. There was Shawn, covered in suds, along with all of the kids with scrub brushes in their hands . . . and together they were scrubbing Emmett’s truck.

No one was crying, and in fact, each child had a huge grin on his or her face. They were talking and laughing and having the time of their lives. For several minutes, I sat at that window with tears falling down my face. No mother has ever prepared to see a scene such as this. A moment that had initially seemed as if it were going to break me all over again, turned into a vision of hope and peace.

I watched out the window as my babies scrubbed their father’s blood off of his truck.

Shawn didn’t panic or run away. Instead, he jumped in and changed the course of that day. Not one of the kids ever saw the blood. Shawn didn’t say a word about why they were cleaning the truck. He made it a game, and he included each child as part of his team. He told them that they were cleaning the truck for Emmett.

Shawn did not step in as a replacement for Emmett. He came to save me from the many moments that would come to remind me of the past and try to break me.

Blood. It has the ability to stain, but it also has the potential to sustain life. It is such a powerful substance, and yet, when it is shed . . . it has the power to end a life and change the course of the lives of everyone around the victim.

Blood. It is the topic of so many courtroom proceedings. It is the focus of so many TV series and movies. We see it on our screens as if it is just a substance that can easily be replaced or removed. It’s not until we experience the shedding of blood in our own lives that we realize those characters on the big screens also have pulses. Those actors in the movies or television shows make it seem so simple. But in real life, when people die in cold blood, they also have families. Some of them are parents, and all of them are sons or daughters. They do not just have blood that falls to the ground; they also have communities surrounding them that suffer. Their blood isn’t the only thing lost as they fall.

In so many homes in our world, we play video games where we shoot guns at people as if it were a fun joke. It isn’t until blood is taken from us in real life that we truly realize that these games that cause us to view the shedding of blood as a sport . . . in reality, only minimize the sanctity of life.

Guns are real. Blood is not make-believe. Without blood, a person cannot survive.

What if, in our world, we were to view every life as important? What if we were able to see the soul of everyone we meet? What if we were to always think about our actions . . . before we act? I believe our world could be a lot different. If our lives were not taken for granted, then we might not view death as a sport.

Everyone has a story, and everyone has a past. Even your old crotchety neighbor was once a young carefree kid. Maybe his screams about your dog taking a crap on his lawn seem outlandish and over dramatic . . . but maybe that green grass is all he has left. Maybe he has seen the blood of someone he loved fall to the ground, or lost them tragically long ago. When we are alone or scared, it isn’t about the poop on the grass or the fly in our water. Reacting to those small irritants is usually merely an outlet for our pain over something else much more significant.

Take a step back. Watch for the panic in the eyes of those around you. Some may be running to their closets with nowhere else to go. They might have literally found the blood that has stained their heart. Some may be blind to the blood that is flashing in their face. Sometimes, you may be able to see the blood they are scrubbing off their father’s truck, and other times, you may just see the smiles that result from learning a new skill. It all depends on your view.

Nothing is as simple as it seems, and not everything is as monumental as it feels.

Blood has been spilt; mistakes have been made in all of our lives . . . be we mustn’t miss the suds foaming up around us to wipe the blood away. The blood on that truck was Emmett’s, but Shawn wasn’t afraid to take Emmett’s babies and teach them how to wipe it clean . . . for him.

I realized that day, even more than I knew it previously, that Shawn and Emmett were a team. Rob wasn’t the only one who had messed up. Emmett had made serious mistakes that got us to where we were that particular day, but he had also helped me find Shawn to assist his family in cleaning up his mess.

From the window that afternoon, I watched it take place, and I have seen it every day since. Shawn wasn’t sent to replace Emmett. No, he was prepared to carry us through in a way Emmett could not. He was there to help me clean up our past, so we could see the beauty that was all around us.

Shawn is not a perfect man. We have had so many bumps as a blended family that are yet to be told in our story. There have even been nights when we didn’t think we would make it, but in many moments . . . he has perfectly shown ME how to stand.

When our Savior suffered in Gethsemane, He bled from every pore. He physically felt every single pain every single person who ever walks the earth has felt or will feel. He felt the pain I have carried since Emmett’s death. He counted my babies’ tears. He felt the pain Emmett suffered that night as a bullet entered his skull and sank into his heart. He felt the sorrow of Emmett’s parents who have not only had to lose their son, but who have had to sit through a trial and hear every detail of how he was murdered. He has even felt the pain of those who sit in a jail cell all alone.

I know that not everyone will physically see with their own eyes the spilt blood that has caused them so much pain, but each one of us will, at one time or another, be wronged. Christ has felt the pain of every hurt.

He has fallen to his knees in pain. He has cried out, “Father, remove this cup from me.” He has wondered, “When will this pain ever be done.” Just like I fell to my knees praying for a promise that my pain would one day cease, our Savior has felt a hurt so excruciating that caused even Him to pray to see an end. He not only has felt our pain, He has prayed for a way out of it.

Knowing that we are not alone can help us remember that even our pain will one day find peace.

He didn’t suffer through that pain because it was easy, or because He wanted to . . . He did it because He loves each one of us. He knows each one of our names, He sees the honesty and sincerity of our hearts, and in the noble and honorable things we do, He smiles at our progress.

He sheds a tear as He watches his little ones scrub their own father’s blood off of trucks, but He also smiles as He sees the willing “fathers” step up to the plate. He knows these challenges are not easy. He knows there are not many willing to take on “burdens” such as this . . . but that is what makes those who do so special.

We are each unique and special in the moments when we stand. Don't wait around for the world to change, find a way to stand strong regardless of its constant spinning. Sometimes, it might feel like it slows down just for us, and other times it feels like we may never catch up. We weren't created to march to anyone else's beat; we were made to be original. 

No one will ever be right where you are, but Christ has been there. He has cleaned up the “blood” we have spilt through our poor choices, and He has bled from every pour . . . for us! Blood is real . . . and death is inevitable . . . but that is what makes life so precious. Never take a day for granted. The blood of this world has already been cleaned up by a loving Savior who has wiped it away for each and every one of us. All we have to do is ask, and He will willingly wipe our past clean. 

You are not forgotten, and your past is not insignificant. He has seen your tears and heard your prayers. Even your blood is enough for Him to purify. Tomorrow might still bring reminders of the messes that have been made in the past, but they can be made clean. Turn to the only one who has the power to scrub even the toughest of stains. Heavenly Father will never let one drop of blood go unaccounted for, and He will never forget one tear. He is the light and life of this world, and because of his blood . . . we can have Eternal life. 


Anonymous said...

You are such am amazing writer. I love your posts and I am addicted to your strength. You give me strength and hope through your words and love for Christ. I love it. Thanks for being a help to many!!

boytrapped4 said...

I was hoping for a new post tonight! Thanks Ashlee! You're doing amazing things by sharing your story, testimony and love! I'm so grateful you have Shawn! Wow! What an amazing man/husband/father he is! You deserve it!

Candice said...

Thanks for sharing this...I am always amazed at the many tender mercies our loving Heavenly Father gives us! You are so right..each of us has a past of pain and struggles we would like to replace with hope for a better tomorrow. I am a strong person..often find myself lifting others...but had a moment just like this yesterday where I wanted to run from the painful reminders....the blood stains. Oh how I wished I had been blessed with an angel like your sweet husband. As a single mom, still struggling to heal completely fom the past, I know that our Savior is always there to wrap His loving arms around us. You are an amazing woman...your stories lend strength to so many :) Thanks!!!

Invisible Dragon said...

Ashlee, I don't think I have the words to tell you what a magnificent man your husband is. Shawn has taken on something so mammoth, I can't describe the respect and awe I have for him. His example is more Christlike than anything I have ever seen in my life! You are both SO lucky to have one another and I wish you both nothing but good for the rest of your lives together. Shawn, you are amazing. Thank you for the example you are showing us all that there are men like you in the world.

Anonymous said...

My friend and I are both SURVIVORS of affairs. My husband and I are trying to move forward together and my friend is in the process of a divorce. We have different endings but have so many of the same emotions and processes to go through. We laugh that you are like our third friend, because we will say things like, "remember how Ashlee said this....." We text each other to let us know when there's a new post.:) we love you and you are an amazing comfort and support to so many. I can't tell you how much your last two posts have helped me. Thank you for being willing to share! You are seriously incredible!!!

Janna said...

Ashlee, this is an amazing post! There is a lot of God-given wisdom in this. Thank you so much for sharing your story and your heart with the world! Perhaps part of God's plan for your life, in the aftermath of an unfathomable tragedy, is to tell your story and help people find Christ because of the hope you have in Him. He has been faithful to provide for your and carry you through this. He brought Shawn into your life when you needed him most... and he (Shawn) seems to perfectly fulfill the role of helping you and your precious kids process this tragedy. I really enjoy reading your blog. God bless you and your family! I will continue to pray for you guys!

Anonymous said...

How amazing that the moments we think we cannot bear and will break us can turn into something beautiful. That's Christ right there. I'm so glad you have Shawn to be in tune and help bring you Christ's grace.

Unknown said...

What a wonderful gift Shawn is to you & your babies. You & your kids deserve so much happiness, joy & peace. I recently watched the Dateline episode & I watched it & cried for you. You've been through so much & it is so nice to see that you've found someone like Shawn.

Anonymous said...

I have read many posts and wanted to respond, but it always hurt to much to do so. Mine is a different story and prespective. My brother died at 43 from a serious illness. He was an amazing man and had a great family. The grieving hadnt stopped from losing my mom to the same thing. It never will in some ways. As the sister I lost someone I could never replace, I could never meet someone who could be my brother and I was angry when his wife, met and married someone so fast after he passed. I only saw it as getting over my brother, not grieving, and replacing my brother. I saw his kids age 5-16 and I was angry they lost their dad, and somone else was going to be that father figure and get to see every happy thing my brother didnt. At times reading your posts I too felt that twinge of anger. How could she move on so fast. I know logically you didnt, and I know your loss was very different from mine. It made me look at how I have been, and how Ive held on to the anger because I felt like It might be the only way I could keep my brother close, I was gaurding him, I was sure he wouldnt be happy that she remarried. These are emotions that we all feel, from guilt to anger to saddness. Your words today touched me, whe you said your husband wasnt being replaced.... those words hit home. I know your kids will miss their dad forever and that he will be a part of them forever. My sis-in-law and her new husband still do things for my brother with the kids. I admire that, sometimes I dont know how the new husband can handle being second as she is married to my brother in the Temple. So there all so many different levels of understanding and not understanding and just hoping it all makes sense when we pass. I still struggle. Thanks for sharing

glenda said...

I'm so happy that you have Shawn to help you and the kids through this journey. Thank you God for bringing Shawn into your life when you needed him the most. God bless your beautiful family!

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing more of your story so beautifully and reminding me you can have help cleaning the messes of life that are overwhelming.

Mari said...


I don't know if you have Pioneer ancestors, but you certainly will stand equal to the Pioneers with what you have endured in your lifetime -- and I know you will always be faithful no matter what comes your way. You are AMAZING!

Reading your posts are very inspirational for me. I was feeling a sense of loneliness today, as I am still very freshly grieving the loss of my husband. (2 months now.) The only pain equal to the heartache I feel is the pain that is felt at the most painful part of childbirth -- the burning part where you feel like dying. I was there when he died, I saw things that haunt my mind. I have also been trying to write about some of these things, as it seems to help get it all out in one place… www.vanormerview2.blogspot.com.

I thank you for sharing things that are so sensitive and personal in nature. As I look over blogs of women I admire, they are almost always of people who have gone through some sort of tragedy in their lives, yet they are still standing, and living to inspire others to come to Christ.

You are an inspiration -- you reach more people than you will ever know. May God continue to be with you on your journey. One day your happiness and joy will far surpass the heartache and pain you have experienced.

God bless you!

Anonymous said...

Oh My, what an amazing man you have found. One that is willing to love you no matter the situation. You deserve such a man. You are truly amazing, i would not know what to do in that situation.

Anonymous said...

Wow.....the timing. This beautiful message came to me as I contemplate struggles in my own life. Ashley you are a warrior and angel of our Father in Heaven. He's watching over you. He sent you a great man to help you through your trials. You have been sent to all of us....to help us through our trials. Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

I love all your posts. This one especially!!! Thank you and thank the Lord for Shawn!

Alli E. said...

That was a beautiful post full of hope and true love.

Lisa said...

I have come to know that Heavenly Father's timing is something we can trust. After 13 years of betrayal and being the victim of an attempted murder on the part of my ex to try and cover his adulterous affairs- I never thought I would trust anyone again. Ever. I thought he was my best friend and he betrayed me in such unthinkable ways. I thought I would be a single mom for the rest of my life. I didn't have any desire to try and date, or even consider being in a relationship because I was positive that decent men do not exist. I know Heavenly Father's timing is important. I am now remarried. And like you mentioned in your post, it has not been easy trying to blend families. I had no idea it could be so difficult. I am surprised we survived that first year. Everyone wanted to run away...including me. It was so hard. But my husband is a good, honest man who values the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his family. Yes, we will still face challenges and trials. Life will always be full of those. I am so happy you have such a good man to help your family as you deal with the trials and challenges of life.

Anonymous said...

Ashlee, I am also on my second marriage and am also a victim of infidelity. Shawn is a WONDERFUL man and reminds me so much of my husband now! How lucky are we!! Thanks for sharing your testimony and being so real and raw in all you write. I really enjoy reading your new posts. Thanks again!!!

Anonymous said...

I, too, have been impressed by Shawn but I just want to say that he, also, is very lucky. You are an incredible woman and he is blessed to have your influence and companionship, just as you are blessed to have his. Thank you for sharing your experiences. They give me strength and increase my own faith in facing the trials I've been felt.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ashlee, love the blog! Just wanted to let you know that should add a security feature on here so these bits can't post. My husband hacks for a living and these are ways to hack... I don't want any good readers responding to these spells!

Anonymous said...

That should say bots

greysquirrelb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
greysquirrelb said...

The first comment "JUNE 4, 11:13 PM" from Anonymous, is exactly how I feel. Thank you so much for sharing each of your posts, for sharing your heart and soul that is inspiring and lifting each of us, and helping us be better. Thank you sweet Ashlee. I pray for you.

heather said...

I love this post!!! Thank you for sharing. I wish I could express how deeply you have touched my life. I wish I could give you a hug. I know that sound weird but I am grateful for what you are doing. I think we all can do better to find the tender mercies God sends us daily. He knows us individually and loves us for who we are. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for reminding me that we arw never truly alone in our afflictions and trials. How quick I am to think I'm the only one that has ever felt the pain I feel.

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