January 20, 2014


Well. It came. The day when everyone returned back to their normal lives. I hadn’t realized that the world was still turning. I wasn’t ready, not even a little bit. I knew this was the night I would put my kids to bed, and I would go to bed, alone. My mother had to go back home. Everyone had to get back to their own lives . . . back to the normal they had always known.

My neighbor Auna was like a second mother to me through everything. Just weeks before Emmett died, I had shared with her my fears about what was going on with him. And then when he died, I texted her just hours after I found out about what had happened. She was nine-months pregnant, but she came over in the middle of her sleep. She made food for everyone who was already gathering. She sat and rubbed my feet. And every day since Emmett’s death, she had checked on me.

Now on this day, she said she would be coming over to get me off the couch and work out with me. As soon as my kids were in bed, she was at the door, ready to break a sweat. I didn’t feel at all like working out, but I did appreciate the thought that she could help me get through some of the hours I would be spending alone in the silence.

We started our workout. Auna turned on the TV and noticed that I had a few episodes of the television comedy The Office that were recorded, and hadn’t been watched. She selected the first recorded episode.

The minute the theme music from the show began, my mind went back four years to the first time Emmett and I had watched The Office. Teage was just a few days old, and my stepbrother Grant and his wife Heather had loaned us a copy of the show’s first season. While trying to get Teage to sleep in the early evening hours, we would turn on an episode and laugh and laugh. We had found a new favorite show.

At every family get-together, and every other chance we got, we tried to “sell” the show to everyone we knew. They just had to become as obsessed as we were with the best show ever! We exchanged The Office souvenirs with my siblings for Christmas. I even did a Dundee Awards ceremony one year with actual “Dundees” I made from bowling trophies from Deseret Industries, our goodwill store. The Office was our show, and we never missed it.

Every note of that opening theme-song was like a flashback of the hours Emmett and I had spent sharing the show. I couldn’t enjoy it without him there. I didn’t know how to watch it without him. I didn’t want to watch it if he wasn’t with me.

My heart hurt. I wasn’t sure how it could be, but somewhere under all of my pain and anger towards Emmett . . . I still missed him. My chest got tighter and tighter as we did our workout while watching the episode. We must have talked a little bit afterwards, but all I remember is walking her to the door. As the door shut and I turned the lock, every good memory I had of Emmett surrounded me.

I ran to my room. It was quiet. It was empty and cold. I was alone in that room. Nobody was there to pick up the slack that night. I was the only person my children would wake up to when the clock hit seven a.m. the next morning. I fell to the floor, and it jolted me when my face smacked the carpet. It was a physical reminder that all of this was real, and I despised it. This wasn’t a movie. It hadn’t been a dream. The carpet smelled clean. It was soft on my cheek . . . but I couldn’t move.

My heart ached for the man I had married. I yearned to hear his voice. I thought about calling his cell phone just to hear his voice ask the caller to leave a message. Then I remembered the detectives had his phone.

I lay face down on my floor . . . waiting for someone to come pick me up. I cried for all the years that had slipped away. I wept for the man to whom I had given my life. I screamed for the fact that no one was there to hear my anguished cries. I didn’t understand. I was so mad at the man who had taken something so sacred and shared it with another woman, but I still longed to be held by that same man who had shared it with me.

I thought about the day Emmett and I first met. I was just a young twenty-year-old working at the gymnasium at Utah State University. From the first moment we met, I knew this man was different. The first time we kissed, I felt safe in his arms. We had everything going for us. We knew exactly what we wanted, and we were both bull-headed enough to accomplish our wildest dreams. And we had the same dreams. Through the coming years, we watched those dreams come true . . . one after another.

 I remembered the day we got married. We were so excited. We couldn’t wait to be together in the temple. We planned it all. It was exactly how I always thought it would be. It was an amazing day, and we felt a bright future just waiting before us.

I pictured the day Emmett proposed to me. He had the ring in his pocket when he took me to a bridge overlooking the place where his childhood home used to sit. Now, it was just a beautiful field with a stream and a bridge. The bridge was covered with snow. It was freezing that night, but I was so excited, I didn’t care. He got down on one knee and told me all the reasons why he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. He promised that he would give me the best of everything. He assured me that I would always be the woman of his dreams.

I pictured every Christmas we had shared. All the New Year’s holidays we had spent with our good friends Emily and Evan. I thought about every birthday. Every Easter dress Emmett had picked out for our girls. Every Valentines Day card he had ever written.

I pictured driving to the Oregon Coast on our honeymoon. It was a perfect week. I thought about all the choices I had made to keep myself pure. I had saved myself in every way for him.

I thought about the birth of each of our children. The hours he spent holding my hand. All of our babies had picked us to be their parents. They were all so unique, and yet they were right where they belonged. Each child brought something new and exciting and completed us as a family even more.

I thought about watching Emmett on his skis doing flips off a ramp the first weekend he took me to Bear Lake to meet his cousins. He was such a show-off, but he was so talented in everything he did. It was so adorable the way he looked at me to see if I was watching. And I was . . . I didn’t want to miss anything he did, and I wanted to be a part of it. I loved being his partner and feeling like we could conquer the world. That is all I had ever wanted: to love and be loved in return. I thought about all the years I actually lived that dream.

But now, here I was . . . face down on my bedroom floor . . . ALONE.

Memories. That was all I had left. I wanted to text him to remind him of all the things that had made us so special. Remind him of the moments we had shared together . . . but he wasn’t there. On that night, reality hit me like a rock. The man I had loved was gone, and for the first time since his death, I truly allowed myself to miss him. No one was watching. Nobody was there to see. Just me. All alone, missing his love. Missing his laugh. Missing the funny things he said. Missing the moments we stood together. Missing everything about him.

I knew he wasn’t a perfect man when I married him, but I loved him anyway. He wasn’t always the perfect husband, but he was my husband. Even in those months before he was gone, when I knew something was wrong, I never stopped loving him.

The pain in my heart didn’t allow me to get off the floor that night, but the love in my memories filled a little bit of the hole that was left in it. But that didn’t change the fact that I was still . . . alone.


Kimber Dawn said...

gosh, i love you Ashlee. xoxo

Lora said...

I don't know you, but I found your blog from The Sullengers blog. I've read every post in the last hour, each one more touching, inspiring, painful and beautiful than the last. I don't know what made you decide to start writing now, but as I read the post about the password I had some thoughts. I write a blog too, and it is for my children. All the memories and experiences, good times and hard times, put down in a place where someday they will be able to look back and remember this part of our life together. I think, someday, these posts will mean so much to your beautiful children, whether that was your inspiration to write them or not. Prayers for your beautiful family.

Heather Maile said...

Love you Ash!! I'm still in awe the way you've handled what you've been dealt!

Alli said...

I love your writing so much. Your description of laying on the carpet...Ive been there, face smashed on the carpet in paralyzing pain and confusion. different circumstances, but huge intensity. I add to your testimony that Jesus Christ's Gospel is the strength to stand back up and keep going. I am so sorry for all you have gone through yet your strength radiates to lift others. Thank you so much! I loved hearing about you and Emmett first dating. I feel your hurt in losing him. This is one of my favorite quotes: "Lay hold of these things and let not your knees or joints tremble, nor your hearts faint; and then what can earthquakes, wars and tornadoes do? Nothing. All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue faithful. By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it...." Joseph Smith. I am sorry for such a long comment..I need to leave the writing to you:) , but I just wanted to share that even though I am sure you already know that quote. Thanks again for your selflessness in sharing your life.

bailee said...

Hi Ashlee. You don't know me either. I just had a strong feeling I needed to let you know what a tender mercy it was for me to find your blog. I have in no way gone through what you have, but having a spouse be unfaithful hurts. I feel some of the same feelings you have wrote about. Thank you. Thank you so much for your testimony time after time in your blog. I'm so thankful to have come across it. It has helped heal my hurting heart. You truly are a woman of faith and I pray that heavenly father will heal your hurting heart. Your sweet family will be in our prayers.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ashlee,
We don't know each other. I followed her from The Sullengers blog. I watched the Dateline show. I'm so sorry that you and your 5 kids have gone through such ordeal. Praying for peace for your beautiful family. Thanks for sharing your story with all of us.

Anonymous said...

I have prayed the prayers you were praying before your hubby passed away. Begging the Lord to help him realize that the children and I are worth his love, his attention, his commitment. I have prayed the prayers hoping that he would see the error of his ways. I still pray those prayers.

I used to pray that I would be able to change so that he would love me. "Maybe if I did this or that, then all would be well." Your writing helped me to realize that that is NOT my responsibility to change. My responsibility is what I am doing now, taking care of our children, loving them, showing them love and patience. My responsibility is to respond in a manner that is Christlike. (I cannot say I would be as nice as you if I was in your shoes) His responsibility is to be responsible for his actions.

How are your children doing now? I pray that they and you can find peace and heal.

Thank-you for having the courage to write in a manner that is so full of faith. Sometimes it is hard to have when we are challenged to the max. I needed to read this to help me heal in my own journey.

The Christy's said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing and sharing your beautiful..and very tragic story!! I saw the Dateline and my heart ached for you. It wasn't until Ashley Sullenger posted your blog that I found this and read some of your accounts of the events. You have a knack for writing…and I have to say that I think writing is so good for the soul. I hope in your case that it is too.

I know I'm just a stranger…but I'm another young, LDS mother, I have four kids. What you've faced is unfathomable. I want you to know that I think you are amazing…and I hope and pray that you can find inner peace in the depths of sorrow that continues to come in waves in your life. And I hope and pray you can be all that you need to be for your family…your children and yourself. You have so much courage!!

And, while I haven't faced the turmoil or pain that your family has faced…I will say that in my trials in my life and through some negative experiences, the times I've found myself growing the most is when I lose myself in service. It's so cliche', and seriously, you have five kids so THEY ARE your service. But I was just reading and thinking that maybe your little ones, if they still struggle, can maybe find someone who is hurting or sick or in need of a friend? Kind of like your post about the Tsunami. I think if they could have opportunities to be something for someone else that their hearts would be filled and maybe heal a little bit of that anxiety and fear and sadness.

Obviously you know what is best for your kids, so I just thought I would share…but mostly I wanted to thank you for your inspiration and all that you've shared and I PRAY that your life can find real, true JOY again…

Brandi said...

I thank God for finding your blog Ashlee. I'm typing this with chills and tears down my face. You are a beautiful writer and really touched my heart with your words. I pray for you and I thank God for you and your amazing heart.

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WE love you Ash..
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Mailene said...

WE love you Ash..
Can't help crying after reading your blogs.. :'(


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