January 11, 2014

The Truth will Set YOU Free

At the luncheon

The funeral took place on March 17, 2011: St. Patrick’s Day. Emmett loved that holiday. His ancestors were from Ireland, and he was named after one of them. So it didn’t surprise me that it was the day on which we celebrated Emmett’s life.

I woke up that morning in hopes that the night before had all been a bad dream. It hadn’t. The limo driver from the funeral home came to pick us up. All the kids piled in, excited to ride in a limo for the first time. My mother rode with us.

The limo driver started to drive towards the church where the funeral was to take place. My heart started to pound. He was taking the route that would pass by Walgreens. I hadn’t yet been able to drive by, and I wasn’t about to have the trip to the funeral be the first time. I started having a panic attack, and I just stared at my mom. She could tell exactly what I was thinking. She gestured up to the driver and asked him if he could turn around and go the long way to the church. He very patiently apologized, turned around, and took us to the church the long way. The church was busting at the seams. Emmett’s popularity and ability to make friends was certainly apparent everywhere I looked. The halls were lined with people.

Family had gathered in the viewing room with the casket. I think shock had given me an adrenaline boost, because today I felt stronger than I anticipated. I had my babies by my side. We walked in and took our place on the front row. Someone came and got Kaleeya to take her to the nursery. I hated to see her go, but I also knew that she would be very distracting and restless. My good friend Brittany had been asked to take Tytus. I wanted them to be in the building, but I didn’t want to worry about them during the service. My stepfather said the family prayer in the viewing room before the family members joined the rest of the congregation in the chapel. He was so eloquent with each sentence he spoke. The spirit filled the room, and I had chills all over my body.

They asked us to begin the line to follow the casket into the chapel. It was still bustling with people, and was filled clear to the back. People were even standing in corners because every seat had been taken. I scanned the room to make sure Kandi wasn’t anywhere to be seen . . . a talent I have become skilled at as the years have rolled by. We turned to go down the aisle to our seats when Teage pulled on my hand and said, “I can’t do this Mom . . . I need to leave.” I leaned down and gave him a kiss. “I understand buddy. I don’t want to do this either.” “Mom . . . I have to go find Kaleeya.” So my little boy went to the nursery to join his sister. Later, my friend Emily—who was there with the children—told me that when he was asked if was okay, he said only these few words: “My Daddy is in a box.”

Now it was just me and the twins. It felt weird not to be surrounded by all five of my children. I took my seat, with one of my girls on each side of me. I was still feeling pretty strong. I could do this. It was going to be a beautiful service. Emmett’s cousins were going to do the life sketch. Our good friend Frank was going to share some memories. Emmett’s best friend from high school, Jason, would say the closing prayer. I had two of my babies holding my hands. I could be strong.

The music began . . . and so did my tears. I was shaking like a dog who just got its first bath. The whole bench felt like an earthquake had just hit. HOW WAS THIS REAL? All the strength that had allowed me to walk into this crowded room of people quickly washed out of me with every tear. My twins glanced at me every few minutes and then looked back down at their laps and silently wept, gripping my hands a little tighter with every glance. By the time the first speaker began, I felt so light-headed that I could hardly breathe. My chest felt heavy, like it did on the night I first heard the news of Emmett’s death.

I finally got my body to relax, and I tried to listen to the messages being taught. I prayed for peace so that I would be able to listen and think and remember. The stories told were beautiful. The memories priceless. The love these people had for Emmett illuminated every word said. It was a perfect service, just the way it was supposed to be. At one point, I could hear my baby cry in the back. I knew it was him, and I wanted to just get up and go get him. Later, Brittany told me about her experience with him in the hall. She said she couldn’t get him to calm down, and all of the sudden, he stopped crying. He was looking up and smiling like someone was making faces at him. Who knows what Angel was there helping my baby boy be calmed?

The closing song was God Be With You Till We Meet Again. My soul ached. The music rocked me, and the message brought hope. That song—which I had heard so many times before—now had so much more meaning to its sweet words.

I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to just sit there forever, listening to the words and music of faith. The minute I stood up . . . I knew that peace would not come so easily. I knew that this moment of calm wouldn’t last forever, but it felt safe. Getting up out of my seat would mean that I was ready to put my husband’s body into the ground. And I wasn’t. Eventually, my aching spirit lost, and I stood up to walk out to greet everyone.

I saw faces I hadn’t seen in years. They were beautiful reminders of my past. People from my childhood coming to show support. Friends from all walks of life. Friends of Emmett’s whom I had never met before. Love pouring out on us from all over the place.

The luncheon following the funeral was beautiful. Photos were displayed everywhere. My little ones had a chance to prance around the room giving loves. Teage was attached at the hip to my sister’s boyfriend, Will. It made me happy to see Teage connect with someone. He was the one I was worried about the most. He had taken this harder than anyone. He had no life in him at all. He just kind of clung to people and wouldn’t let anyone go. He was even more of a zombie than I was. His little mind seemed to be constantly racing from scenarios of fear. It wasn’t until later that night that I would find out exactly what was going on inside his head.

Let me go back a bit to explain this. One October morning, five months before Emmett’s death, the twins were at school, Kaleeya was asleep, and Teage came into my room while I was applying my make-up. “Mom,” he said, “remember when I went to the movie Megamind? . . . Dad’s friend, Kandi, from his office . . . she was there.”

Pit in stomach . . . “Oh yeah buddy, that is crazy. Did you guys run into her?” I asked. “No,” he replied, “but she was there.”

I picked up the phone and called Emmett at work, and after a few minutes I said, “Hey…Teage is talking about Kandi being at the movie with you guys. Did you run into her?” “No…” he answered, “He sat by a lady who kept giving him candy . . . Let me talk to him.”

Teage had his ear to the phone. “Oh . . . okay,” he said, “yeah, yeah, uh huh….”

He hung up the phone. “Mommy, I lied. Kandi was not there, it was just a lady with candy.”

After that phone conversation, I thought about that day . . . Emmett had acted strange. He said he wanted some alone time with Teage and they were going to go to a movie. I had suggested that Kaleeya and I go with them as well, since the twins would be at a friend’s birthday party. His reply was an awkward and unexplained, “Hell no!” that left me with an uneasy feeling inside of me.

The night of the funeral, my brother Josh brought over Megamind for the kids to watch. I was in packing for our trip the next day to the cemetery, which was out-of-state. Teage came walking into my room . . . and almost word for word, said, “Hey Mom . . . remember when I went to Megamind? She really was there, Mom . . . I LIED to you. WHY did I have to lie? . . . WHY was she there? Why did I have to lie to you?” I dropped my bag and scooped him up. I said, “I know Teage. She was there, but it is not your fault. You didn’t lie to me. There is nothing you did that could make me stop loving you. Everything is going to be okay.” He cried and cried. He felt guilty. He felt betrayed. He didn’t talk much, just cried in my arms. It was like my arms were excited to hold him and welcome him to race. The race to figure out where to begin to grieve. I knew I wasn’t alone. Teage’s little mind and heart were in a battle just like mine were: a battle that would take years to overcome. His confession that day was just the beginning of deep-rooted fears and secrets that would prevent him from being a little care-free kid.

The decisions we make don’t just affect us. In the moment, something might seem innocent and fun. We only care about ourselves. For some, these times come many times a day. It is easy to think that we are the exception . . . that what we do is okay. I don’t think Emmett had any clue of the impact that decision to take Teage to the movies that day would have on his son months later. And I know Emmett didn’t think that his chance to right that wrong, which he had left for tomorrow to fix, would be taken away with two shots of a gun.

Teage had been holding in a lie, and now it was time to let it go. Time to set it free. I was so proud of him. He was honest with me. He was honest with himself. He was a great example to me that night. At four years old, my boy stood a little taller that day. The truth can set you free. Every time the truth is obscured in darkness . . . we are letting Satan have the power. Secrets and deception will never win . . . though it might seem easy in a moment of shame . . . truth will find you. Light will win. In those moments, it is our chance to make sure we are on the team that will always prevail.

If there is a silent secret inside of you . . . now is the time to let it go. If you have wronged someone . . . now is your moment to set it right. All we have is now. If you think you will resolve your situation tomorrow . . . you just never know if that will be. You have been blessed with this moment NOW. Make it count.

Some of the Pall bearers


Stephanie Markel said...

Stranger, here. I remember watching this story on Dateline or 20/20 or 48 Hours- can't remember which. I remember thinking what a horrible, heartbreaking story it was. I remember praying for you. Now, as I see this in blog form, I can see clearly that it's so much more than a story. It's real life.

Thank you for putting your real life out in the open. Your faith is so inspiring to me. Your situation is unique and massive, but we all can relate in some small way, as all suffer. We relate to suffering, and so by sharing our lives in a way such as this, it serves as a bridge from soul to soul. Suffering is what connects us, often.

My marriage ended because of an affair. Ultimately, my husband chose her over me. She was also older. I am personally acquainted with some of that bitter, raw betrayal you must have felt. I am grateful that I didn't also have to come to terms with a death- a total abandonment- even at the time of betrayal.

I'm not trying to say I know how you feel. I do know how adultery hurts and how it changes your life. I guess what I'm really trying to say is I'm sorry for your pain and suffering, and as I read your posts, I try to put myself in your shoes, but even that momentary, imaginary glimpse is too hard! I hope you will accept the love and compassion of this awkward stranger.

Thanks again for sharing this! Thank you humbly for your sweet strength!

Unknown said...

Thank you Ashlee for sharing! I don't know you, but I am inspired by your words just like so many others. I just want you to know that you are touching so many around you, a lot of whom you have never met! I see at least one link to your blog every day. I can't imagine the pain of losing your childrens' father. I am a wife of two years and I have a little one year old daughter and it breaks my heart even thinking about living through what you did. I am especially grateful for your testimony that God sends angels to help us and that He is always there to comfort us through the hardships that we all inevitably go through. Please keep writing and I will pray for your family! your children are so lucky to have such a wonderful and faithful mom to lead them through life!

Lex-a-roo said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I am so uplifted by your spiritual strength. You have reminded me of our Savior's love and that he helps us through difficult times. Much love to you and your children you will be in our prayers.

Anonymous said...

My husband had a little fling a few months ago. Months before he had left the church and joined a bible church right after our second child was born. I left him when I found out about his fling, but I felt prompted to com back. He gave that woman up for me and has done his best to make up for his mistakes but I feel angry and hurt all while trying to forgive. It isn't easy. Thank you so much for posting your testimonies so I can have hope that god can heal my pains. It hasn't been easy, but you are right, you keep moving forward. I know my situation doesn't compare to yours, but I appreciate your testimonies. It has helped to heal my heart a little more. Thank you!

Stephanie said...

Thank you for sharing. You write so beautifully. <3

Anonymous said...

Wow, what Teague had to go through. I am praying for each of you!!

Unknown said...

It's the brutal honesty of your emotions and your willingness to be so vulnerable in sharing them. I've not been as blessed to have much of a support system while trying to sift through the ashes of betrayal and divorce. I feel damaged, not knowing how I'll ever be free from the pain and wish I had the desire to try to find love again. Anyway, I too feel great empathy with all that your family has endured. The sting of the tears while reading through some of these brings with them some peace of not being alone. So many people give such worldly advice and think that I should just be over it already. It's been almost 4 years after a 17 year marriage, and countless times of being told I was crazy. But it is our own journey. I'd lay this cross down today if I knew how. God bless you and your children today and always. Thank you for sharing and resonating with my own heart.

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