With this time of year coming on quickly, the past few days I have been thinking a lot about the Christmas after the trial. Rob had been sentenced (I promise I will write about this soon), and we all were asked to write a victim impact statement to be read in front of the courtroom—and Rob—before the judge was to make his final decisions of the details of Rob’s sentence.
For weeks I avoided even thinking about writing my statement. It weighed heavy on my mind— but in fear, I pretended I didn’t know its due date was looming. Finally, after a text from a victim coordinator reminding me to get it turned in, I knew I must begin. She was right—if I didn’t turn in my statement in advance, it would not be approved in time for me to be allowed to read it.
And I couldn’t wait to read it—I didn’t want to write it . . . but I couldn’t wait to say the words that had been eating me alive in the dark of the night. I couldn’t wait to take my place on that stand and tell the stories of my pain. I couldn’t wait to set it free—the impact that gun had had on my family.
I finally found a free moment and headed to the solitude of my room to begin writing.
I sat on my bed, staring at the blank computer screen. I didn’t even know where to begin. I would type a few words—and then erase everything one letter at a time. Thoughts whirled through my head as I stumbled over every memory of the previous year and nine months.
Some versions began with anger—others with pity. Some started out with tears—others with hate . . . but every version would be erased from the screen just as fast as it went up. Nothing felt right.
I offered a silent prayer—hoping I could put into words the impact that had changed my life.
Thoughts continued to run through my mind. Gun. . . Rob . . . Impact . . . Rob . . . gun . . . Emmett . . . Kandi . . . Impact . . . Impact . . . Impact. . . Walgreens . . . impact . . . Rob . . . Gun . . . Emmett . . . kids . . . gun . . . impact . . . Kandi . . . affair . . . impact . . . Emmett . . . truck . . . Walgreens . . . gun . . . impact . . . Rob . . . gun . . . impact . . . widow . . . alone . . . kids . . . baby crying . . . Impact . . . detectives . . . trial . . . gun . . . impact . . . dark . . . alone . . . enough . . . impact . . . Emmett . . . gun . . . impact . . . head . . . heart . . . broken . . . impact . . . murder . . . gun . . . impact . . . impact . . . impact . . . impact . . . impact . . . impact. . .
I got stuck on the word impact. What did it mean? I knew how I had been victimized by that man and that gun . . . but what impact had it had? How was my life impacted by that choice Rob made—to take a gun?
I clicked on my Internet browser . . . and searched. I wanted to understand why; I needed to know how. At first I wanted to know what to write about—see if someone who had been in my shoes had any advise for me.
Nothing I typed in the browser got me anywhere. So I just typed in one word . . . I M P A C T.
I read some of the definitions out loud . . .
-the action of one object coming forcibly into contact with another
-the effect or influence of one person, thing, or action, on another
- have a strong effect on someone or something
-affect, influence, have an effect on, make an impression on
It was so clear. In that moment I knew exactly why I was not being able to put into words the feelings of my heart—because I was forgetting the impacts that made me a survivor.
I was focusing so hard on all of the impacts that made me a victim—I was writing my “victim statement” without my whole heart. I was writing about impacts with hate in my heart, and revenge in my mind. I was forgetting everything but the fear. I was trying to put into words my pain—without remembering the light that had carried me through it.
All of the sudden sentences began to form—but not in the thoughts of the impacts I had intended. My tears began to flow as my words popped up on the screen . . .
Dear friends and family,
As I have been starting to write my victim impact statement this week . . . how Rob and his gun have affected me—and my children—it has brought back a lot of memories. It has reminded me of some of the pain and hurt that have been so long ago suppressed. Reflecting on those times has not been easy, but it has also given me the opportunity to think about the impact all of my friends and family have been on us too. I have lists of thank you notes I still need to write from the last year and 9 months. Hundreds of people who have been there for me in many different ways: endless dinners and treats, house cleaning, laundry doing, blankets sewn, girls nights, alarms installed in hours, birthdays, visits, presents, closet organizing, compulsive furniture rearranging, pictures taken, sweet emails and cards, sitting with me at the courthouse for days on end, babysitting, befriending my children, shoulders I have cried on, encouragement, and prayers, etc. Only I have not written one. Every time I have tried, for some reason I have been scared that even thinking about any of those times would strike reality back in my face. There have been months that I have been nothing but a shell of a person and have pushed everyone away. Maybe not openly, but inside there have been days that I just wanted to be done with it all. I have pretended that if I just don't even go there that somehow it would all disappear and the pain would stop and the fear would just dissolve. If I have ever sat with you in a crowded room and I haven't said a word to you . . . or you have called and I have been quiet or short—it is not because I am ungrateful or don't appreciate or like you. If you have come to my home or sent a kind note and have ever felt like it went unnoticed—I want you to know you have all been silent angels to me in so many ways. So as I think of all the impacts on my family—since that night—I am humbled to reflect upon the blessings each one of you has brought to me. Each relationship the kids and I have had, have been unique and special . . . and as a whole, the impact you have brought has been immeasurable. Thank you for being a kind friend, a patient neighbor, a loving primary teacher, and all the other roles you have played in our lives. Our lives are forever changed by a gun, but have been forever enriched by the people around us who have been there to help us find strength and courage and faith enough to remember that our Heavenly Father still loves us. He makes that clear every day by the people He has placed in our lives. I love you all so much and am truly grateful from the bottom of my heart for all that you have been for me. Merry Christmas and I hope as this year closes we can all strive to be a little bit more like Christ in all we do. He is the reason for this season and He is the one thing we can always count on in our lives. No matter where you are or what you are going through if you let Him, He will comfort you. I love you all so much. Have a very Merry Christmas!
Ashlee Birk and family
Impact. Every moment can impact us—for good or bad. Every person we meet—and the actions they choose—can and will impact our lives. The times when we fall victim to these moments—we will feel the impact more powerful than anything we have ever felt.
I have said it a hundred times—we are all going to be victims in one way or another—but not all of these impacts will leave us as survivors.
Survivors are found when we are able to see the love that surrounds us—the impact of hope . . . the impressions that are made from the earthly angels sent to lighten our load.
We have to look for the impacts that are helping us survive. The moment we remember that writing our impact statement—at the end of a hard trial—isn’t just to reflect upon the impact of the pain, it is an opportunity for us to remember all the impacts that have changed us. That is the moment we will understand Why?.
So much of our lives we are going to ask Why?. So many things we will endure will not always make sense. Life is going to test and try us over and over again, day after day—and we will be impacted by something each and every one.
We will impact this world—for good or for bad—we will all leave our mark.
Christmas is wonderful time of year to reflect upon how we are making a difference. Christmas is more than a celebration of the birth of our Savior—it is a time when He hopes we can reflect on the impact we can be in the lives of those around us.
The impressions we leave aren’t just up to chance—they are up to us. Remembering Christ in Christmas is just the first step to truly allowing the impact He left for the world to ring true in our own hearts. Remembering Him is not enough—we must strive to be like Him. We must live each day so the impact we leave on the world is . . . following in His footsteps.
To truly celebrate Christ—we cannot just remember His name—we have to remember His life . . . and the lessons He learned, and the sacrifices He made—we have to write in our hearts the impact He left for us alone.
Each drop of blood He spilt was for us as individuals . . . personally. As we impact the world for good with our actions, we show Him all the reasons His life impacted ours—we show gratitude for the personal sacrifices He made . . . to not only come into this world—and impact those He met . . . but to die for it—to save nations.
Every choice we make—every thing we do—will impact someone. It is up to us if those impacts leave a blast—a hole in the road—or if they leave hope . . . and a pathway to follow.
Impact the world by making a difference for good. Change the lives of those around you by following the One whose impact didn’t just change the world—it saved it.
Christmas is a time of hope—even if you cannot see it from where you are standing . . . look for it anyway. Watch for those that are impacting you. Not all of them will bring light—but they will change you.
The impact of our journeys will be what everyone remembers when we die. Make an impact to remember. And remember the impacts that were made just for you.
Merry Christmas. I hope this year brings more hope and peace to all of us on this earth still searching for it. We have all been impacted in ways we never planned—whether by a gun, abuse, disease, crimes, accidents, or another person’s death. We have seen that these tragedies have left a hole in our lives. Our pain is real—and it runs deep in us all. We all know how to write a victim statement about our pain—because inside we all have.
This Christmas let us find a reason to see how the light of the world has impacted us—let us look for the good in the years that have passed, and remember those who have strived to impact us for the better.
There is always going to be a reason to sing the lonely lullabies of what our lives should have been—but in those notes we will find that hope drifts away. Hope comes when we let the pain go. Hope comes as we embrace those hard trials—and still see the good . . . and look to the future with faith that even though hard times will come again—so will the light.
Impact the world with the light of truth—the true gift that Christ wants us all to receive this Christmas—the impact of His life, His sacrifices—but most importantly His love.
No matter where you have been—no matter who you are . . . Christ sees the differences you are making—and rejoices for the impacts you are leaving in His world.
So even if you are alone this Christmas—you are not forgotten. He is the gift. Share it with the world. Impact the survivors who are searching for a way out of the victimhood that now consumes them.
We are not just victims being impacted by each other. We are survivors who are carrying our brothers back to the hope they have lost—impacting each other—just as our Savior showed us how.
To all the survivors who have carried me and my family out of the darkness—I will never forget your names. Thank you is not enough for the angels who have been sent our way.
Yes, our family has forever been changed by a gun—but the impact of the lives who have touched ours for good will forever be remembered in our hearts.
Ashlee Birk and family
(Tytus, Teage, Shawn, Ashlee, Bailey, Bostyn, Jordyn, and Kaleeya)