February 17, 2014

For Good

One day, my friend Bergen was at my house chatting with me and said, “You know, you should really hire someone to come stay with you for the summer to help you when you have meetings and counseling appointments, and everything else you have going on. What about your cousin Tiffanie . . . she would be the perfect person for the job.”

My first thought was of what Tiffanie had done just the year before. She had spent the entire summer helping my Grandma, whose husband had just passed away. Tiffanie had already spent a summer with a widow . . . like she would want to come do that again! But the idea felt right, so I texted her.

By that night, she and I had made plans. She would come as soon as college was out for the summer and stay until school began again in the fall. It gave me something to look forward to. I was excited to have an extra set of hands, and it would also help me to do some fun things with the kids during the upcoming summer.

The week finally came when school was out. On the day she arrived, she brought her sister Taylor and our Grandma Berna because they all had tickets to go see the musical WICKED. At the last minute, Tiffanie’s mother, who was supposed to go with them, called to say she couldn’t make it. She told me that I could have her ticket if I wanted it. I was excited! I knew nothing about the show. I had never even heard any of the songs, but I was happy to take her place and spend a night out with the girls.

We drove downtown to the theater. I hated going downtown, and tried to avoid it at all costs. It always brought back memories: the hospital where Tytus was born, the grocery store where we’d stopped while I was in labor to get a doughnut for me before the hospital starved me. Emmett’s old office. The courthouse where I knew the dreaded trial would take place. Driving past all of these places always left a pit in my stomach. On the other hand, it was nice taking the drive with other people in the car, and driving there for a purpose other than something having to do with my past.

We finally came to the Opera House and found a parking spot. We made our way into the building. I saw a few people I knew, gave some hugs, and then we found our seats. It was relaxing to be in a building where everyone seemed so excited and content. I loved the energy I felt in that hall.

Soon the music started up and the lights were dimmed. The show began. I was mesmerized. The stage was bright, and the music was enchanting. It was like every care in MY world just disappeared as I listened to the story and got lost in the melodies. Everything inside me was calm, and in that moment, I forgot all the fears and pain that awaited me when reality would once again hit at the end of the play.

The story was about two girls who were never really meant to be friends. In fact, they hated each other. They were complete opposites. As the plot moves along, they end up becoming a great team to fight the corruption they saw around them.

Toward the end of the play, the main characters, Elphaba and Galinda, come to a crossroads, knowing they might be saying goodbye to each other for the last time. The music began . . . the first words were sung . . . and my tears began to fall . . .

For Good (from the Broadway Play Wicked)
I’m limited.
Just look at me.
I’m limited.
And just look at you.
You can do all I couldn’t do.
So now it’s up to you,
For both of us.
Now it’s up to you.

I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are lead to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you.

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun,
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you.
I have been changed for good.

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime.
So, let me say before we part:
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you.
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you’ll have rewritten mine
By being my friend.

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea.
Like a seed dropped by a sky bird
In a distant wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you...

Because I knew you...

I have been changed for good.

And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done,
You blamed me for.

But then,
I guess,
We know there’s blame to share.

And none of it seems to matter anymore.
Like a comet pulled from orbit
(Like a ship blown from its mooring)
As it passes a sun.
(By a wind off the sea)
Like a stream that meets a boulder
(Like a seed dropped by bird)
Halfway through the wood.
(In the wood)
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better.
I do believe I have been changed for the better.

And because I knew you...

Because I knew you...

Because I knew you
I have been changed...
For good.

Tears fell down my cheeks, and with every note sung . . . I missed Emmett from the depths of my soul. I pictured us singing this duet. I could almost see him begging me to continue on, despite him being gone. I pictured him pleading with me to forgive him for all the things he had done, and for all the things he had left unsaid. I felt his arms surround me as I watched those characters sing to each other on the stage. I felt his love. I felt his regret. My heart ached for all the duets we would never sing, for all the love songs we had sung together . . . that were now in the past . . . and for all the songs he left me still singing . . . without him.

I could almost hear him begging me to carry on his journey, asking me to change others through the story of his pain, letting me know that he needed me now, more than ever, to continue his mission to do good on the earth. For the first time since he died, I realized that he DID need me, and he always had. All the anger I had been carrying seemed to disappear for the duration of the song, and all the good that he had been to me was brought to my remembrance.

I wasn’t sure that day if I had been changed for the better, but I knew that because I had known Emmett . . .  I had been changed for good.

He left me at a time when I doubted the reality of our love, and when I was questioning the purpose of my pain . . . but that didn’t mean he hadn’t changed me for the better. I couldn’t understand why he was gone. I don’t know that I will ever grasp why I had been left to find my way in this world without him . . . through a time when he was the one who held the key to healing me and answering all my doubts. I couldn’t understand why he had to be the sacrifice for someone else’s pain. I will never have the opportunity to hear him explain why he betrayed our marriage. His choices had brought me so much heartache, and his murder had shattered my dreams . . . but nonetheless, he had still left me with so much for which I could still be thankful. He gave me thousands of smiles. He gave me years of joy. We had times in our marriage when he made me feel like I was on top of the world. We laughed together as we struggled through years of school. We held on to each other through miscarriages and sickness. We held hands during the funerals of many of our beloved family members. We danced at many weddings. We created so many moments of love. We were blessed with unlimited blessings. He and I had built a life that I loved . . . and it was all still right in front of me. He gave me five beautiful children, whom I wouldn’t trade for anything. We created them together, in love. He changed me for the better, and even though he was gone . . . he touched my life while he was here.

Through the years, there have been many people who have changed me for good. Taylor and Grandma held my hands while I cried that night. Tiffanie would end up spending her entire summer changing me and the kids for good, being a support for us in our greatest time of need. It was more than just a summer job of changing diapers, helping children across the street, and blowing up water wings. It was the moments when she helped us to stand . . .  when all we could do was stumble without her help. She has always been one of my best friends, but that summer . . . Tiffanie was my Angel.

My journey has been full of Angels . . . some who can be seen with my eyes, and others who I can only feel with my heart. But there hasn’t been a moment when I haven’t felt them near.

Sometimes people come into our lives for only a moment, sometimes they come and stay for a while. And then there are those who leave us way too soon. When they go, all we have left are the memories of how we have been changed because of them.  Whoever they are, and whatever they bring . . . our paths cross for a reason. And, for every soul who has touched yours, you have made a difference to them as well.

Every life is made up of a series of impacts . . . a list of moments when others interact with us. We cannot avoid them. Some will be blessings in our lives and others will be more like collisions, that will leave us injured and damaged. Sometimes, you will be the one to impact another person. Other times, it will be someone who will impact you. It is our responsibility to make sure our impact on others will be for good. It is up to us as well, to find the faith to overcome those moments when the impact of others on us has left us broken.

Each of these moments are what create your history. Make sure you leave a legacy worth telling. Live your life as if every moment of impact you have on another person will be your last. Don’t breeze through your days without taking the time to make each day count, for good.

Every soul you meet has a purpose. Everyone you shake hands with has a story. Every story is based on an individual’s attempts to build positive relationships. Every moment that touches your life . . . has meaning. Find it. We are not put together by accident, and even when we are forced to part . . . it is for reasons much greater than we will ever comprehend. Sometimes, there are new roads we are being asked to travel. There are lessons in every story, morals at the end of every day. There is still good to be found. We cannot write our stories alone. It is up to each soul we touch, and each spirit that finds ours . . .  to write our stories together. Every person you meet will leave something for you, and you will leave behind memories for them. Each moment of impact will define who we will become. Make a difference in those moments when others are falling . . . and search for strength in those moments when you must stand. Every impact . . . every second of your history will be part of YOUR story. Each time your life is touched, you can be changed for good.

[1]From the Broadway Musical Wicked, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman. The musical is based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, a parallel novel of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz based on the classic story of the same title by L. Frank Baum.


Big D and his crazy wifey :) said...

Ashlee, I've been following your blog because I felt like for some reason I knew you and you looked so familiar to me. Now, after seeing you in that pic with your grandma, it all makes sense. Your sweet grandma was my visiting teacher in Pocatello, Idaho around 3 years ago. I fell in love with her at our first meeting. Now I understand how you can be such an amazing woman....you come from a line of amazing women. Her kindness to me goes unmeasured. The light of Christ shines brightly in you and your grandma. Your strength leaves me speechless, and I have beem changed for the better because I knew your grandmother and becuase of your blog. No wonder I felt a suttle kinship with you. I get to go to Poactello this weekend, I need to go give your grandma a big hug :)

Anonymous said...

Just lovely. Thanks for sharing your journey - your words are inspiring.

Samantha said...

I think this one is my favorite yet. :) I'm originally from Nampa so I heard your story on the news as it broke and Tiffanie and I are good friends. You are amazing.

Brittany H said...

Hey Ashlee, I am Brittany, Heather's best friend. I have been hearing about you guys since before the accident and silently following your story since the beginning through her. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. I am so impressed by your humility and strength to endure. You are one of my heros.

Anonymous said...

Amazing Ashlee.... I learn so much from reading your words. Your strength of character and ability to find good in an awful situation have amazed me. I think you should make your writings into a book. I also found hope in your post today... as you said you struggled through miscarriages and how have 5 kids. We are struggling with miscarriages and I hope to one day hope to have beautiful children to raise also. Thank you for that postive perk! Wishing you ALL the very best life has to offer.

Anonymous said...

Too often the good in people is washed away by them making one mistake. Sounds like Emmett had a lot of good qualities, and its hard that the world(us outsiders) only see the mistake. I'm glad you have these pictures of your family and remember the good things.

Anonymous said...

Your blogs bring such an amazing sprit with great messages and I always look forward to reading them. This was one has been my favorite. I work a job where I see how quickly life can change and I agree 100%, life is short and we need to live it to the fullest because we never know what tomorrow brings. Thanks again for writing this blog, your an amazing writer and should write a book.

Lisa said...

Hold on while I wipe my tears...

Unknown said...

Ash, I can't begin to understand the trails you're facing. You are not the same woman I met all those years ago working for campus rec at Utah State. Your faith, determination, love, and forgiveness inspire me. The Emmett I knew was a good man; and I'm pleased to see you can appreciate the good in him, despite the choices he made. I wish you the greatest amount of happiness you can find and a continued trust in the Savior as he supports you in your life. Stay strong, be loved!

glenda said...

Wow... this post is so beautiful. You can feel the love. It's sad that we see the one mistake Emmett did. That was his choice, but thank you for sharing all the good you shared with him and your beautiful family. Through this journey of shattered hearts you can see the good times you shared with him. That's an inspiration. Thank you for sharing with all of us. You definitely can express yourself so well and I agree with some of the others, you should write a book. Your faith and forgiveness inspires me. xo

KD said...

You don't know me but I knew Emmitt. I was married to one of his friends.I am so sorry for your loss. Your strength inspires me. Thank you for sharing your blog with us.

Anonymous said...

Not to sound trite or even remotely insensitive, but i wonder if you ever consider that maybe you just might be the lucky one.

As an LDS women myself, married for 18 years with 5 beautiful children (multiples included;)) I am your story...right up until the murder. I joined the ranks of those deceived by the very ones they should trust many years ago. After 4 years of trying to save my marriage and recover from the devastating aftermath of infidelity I am faced with the painful reality that we may not be able to make it. Not because we don't believe in the Atonement and its healing power, and not because we don't believe in forgiveness and our ability to change what IS. But possibly because the very human weaknesses that got us in this predicament are the same ones that render us too weakened to fix what is broken even with the knowledge of Eternity in our foresight. The same agency that allows us to selfishly betray those we love also allows us to walk away. Only on this account, I am the one walking.

You are still a whole family. The veil between heaven and earth is thin. Emmett may not be here for you to find earthly resolve and though he did break his covenants he made with you and with God, you are still sealed and will have the opportunity to be together again and possibly work things out in a more enlightened and Heavenly manner. This sounds fabulous to a girl who realizes that if we aren't capable of making it work we will choose to dissolve our marriage and eventually our sealing because we can! Your family is still whole. You don't have the agency to concede. Maybe you and Emmett would have made it through this trial with flying colors...and maybe you wouldn't have. I thought I could. I had no idea how exponentially destructive the consequences of sin were. The breakdown is not always in the one offended, it is more often than not in the one who did the offending. Their choices challenge them beyond measure. It changes the very fabric of their character. When they finally emerge from the darkness they were living in it is a harsh reality they face. The way they judge themselves is the hardest for them to overcome. If Emmett was anything like my husband he deeply valued "integrity", "loyalty" and "family" (in theory anyway). The realization that they jeopardized losing their most valued treasures is a hard one to bounce back from. It quickly can become their biggest handicap. I don't know you and I don't know Emmett although by the sounds of his success in his career, his "BIG" personally, and his tenacity in life he sounds eerily familiar. I bet when Emmett walked into a room there was no doubt he was there.

I have presided over different auxiliaries in church, my husband has served faithfully (i think) as a member of bishoprics, we sit on our pew in church as a family who is strong in the faith and attractive in appearance. I am sharing that with you to suggest that maybe...just maybe, when the stars aligned for the worse on the dreaded night that your husbands life was stolen from him and from you and from your children that at the very same moment you were being handed a gift. Painful, ugly and hideous, yet full of possibility and unforeseen opportunity. We can never know the "What Ifs", but as I ravenously devour your words of emotion, raw honesty, experience and truth I can't help but wonder if maybe in the end...you are the lucky one.

Thank you for putting into words the what I have lived and endured. I derive strength in the way you dig in and stand strong at the very moment you are moving forward in faith with admirable resilience (tricky to stand and move at the same time;)). You never plan to become a member of the "betrayed wives" club, but once you are there it is amazing to know how much company you have. Far too many of us know how you feel and we will pray for you and for ourselves as we navigate these waters alike.

Keep Standing...I am

Anonymous said...

I so desperately need to know there is hope out there and that things can be better. All I can find is stories where the families touched by immorality were broken apart. Please SOMEONE post something somewhere that can give me hope. The gist of my problem is that my husband feels no remorse and no intention of letting go of his "one true love" and has instead blamed ALL of his problems of the church. He now posts daily in an antimorman forum about all the things wrong with the church and its people. I want to work things out with him and keep our family together for so so so many reasons. Isn't there anyone out there who has successfully recovered from apostacy and infidelity?

Anonymous said...

I have felt great love for Ashlee and the difficult journey which her life, and that of her children, has taken. Through the breaking of covenants, and incredibly poor decisions, A man's life was lost and a family lost their father. A little over a year and half ago my wife betrayed me, and after fifteen years of marriage, I am single again. Within a marriage, each person needs to make decisions, whether or not those decisions will benefit the family unit or destroy it. I would give you hope, Anonymous from April 7th, that God will never leave you; he is the one that will save you and bring you happiness, no matter the discretions of your husband. Also, I would like to say, that it is not only men who cheat; I did not have issues with Pornography; I did not break any covenants; I kept all the covenants I made with God and with her. I believe in the Atonement, but if a person does not choose to permit the atonement to work, a spouse can not force the other, a Bishop can not force nor a Stake President. I do not wish to be crass or, in anyway negative, but Emmitt chose to betray his beautiful wife, the same way David betrayed Uriah when he desired to sleep with Bathsheba. I did recover from infidelity. I am looking for someone who will love me and choose me, not someone else. I am looking for someone who will be committed to me, an imperfect man, who tries to live up to all his covenants he has made with God. Anonymous April 7th, good luck, may God guide you and direct you throughout your life, and I pray that your husband will have the Lord come down to him, like he did with Alma the Younger and work miracles in his life, but if that does not happen, God does not want you to be miserable. Like he said, this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man/woman.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I have. I cannot speak to your situation, only The Lord can. I would strongly encourage you to dig in to your own spiritual strength and pour every last ounce of energy into learning everything you can about Christ. Pour your life into service, temple, scriptures, devotionals, anything gospel related, and, the hardest part, let your husband use his agency. The greatest gift you can give him, yourself and your family is his agency. It is counter to what you naturally do, but it will be the only way he can fully come back to you.
Just a warning, the road back is long, hard, and extremely painful. The scars are deep and wide. The atonement is miraculous, and The Lord forgives and heals, but navigating that healing path is quite difficult.
Stick to the gospel, let him make his own choices, and begin healing through Christ.

Anonymous said...

Bless you. I pray you find a partner who values your integrity and fidelity.

Anonymous said...

There is hope. So far my 20 year marriage has survived infidelity from 2 1/2 years ago. It is a hard and rocky road, but I believe the Lord is there to help. It is hard to say that I am thankful for the trial we went thru, because it was the worst thing to endure ever, BUT it was what my husband needed to turn his life around and become a member of the church. We were sealed last summer to our 3 children. It is still hard for me, but with God's help we are enduring and healing. Satan is working hard to tear families apart, no matter how faithful in the church you are. I had this quote on my mirror thru the hardest time of my life and read it everyday "There is no obstacle too great, no challenge to difficult, if we have Faith". Good luck to everyone that has been betrayed and know you are never alone. Thank You Ashlee for your wonderful and inspired blog.

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