Ashlee’s incredibly tragic story.
For those who don’t know this story, Ashlee was just your typical wife and mother. She married her husband in Mt. Timpanogos temple and had five kids. Ashlee’s husband Emmett was a lawyer and was quite successful right out of the gate. You would think that everything was setting up just perfect for her and her family. Little did she know the massive uphill challenge she was about to face.
Rob and Kandi was the other couple in this story. Rob and his wife Kandi had been fighting a lot. Rob admittedly had been cheating on his wife Kandi and they were constantly fighting in their marriage. He had told her that he wanted to stop but couldn’t. As the story progressed Kandi ended up taking a job as a paralegal with Emmett and ended up working quite closely with him. A long story short, Emmett ended up having an affair with Kandi. Ashlee knew that there was something going on with Emmett as his personality had changed, he was violent and quick to anger. He was never home at the house always left when they fought. However, she thought it might have been something with the steroids he was taking, or something else but never thought it he was cheating on her.
One night, Emmett and Ashlee had a huge fight. Ashlee was bent on fixing whatever was wrong with their marriage that night. She confronted Emmett and told him that they needed “fix” whatever this was in their marriage. She pleaded with him not to leave that night and stay with them and their family. The rest of the story will be in her own words.
When Emmett left that night I knew that this time was different. He left just as he had for many nights. Saying he was going to go run an errand and be right back….but not come home for 7 or 8 hours. I knew in my heart that just as the previous weeks had shown me, he wasn’t coming back any time soon. My 6 week old baby began to cry the minute the garage door shut, just as he had done every night. This time his cry seemed to be a panic, that I not only felt in his screams, but in my heart. I called Emmett to beg him to come back…no answer. I said a prayer….I pleaded that the nightmares I had been having all week about my baby dying would just go away. This could not be the answer the universe had to get this father to realize what he had been given in this life.
I prayed that that would not be the thing that shook his world and helped him want to come home with us. I pleaded with my Heavenly Father that he would not take my baby. I begged that Emmett would be given a chance to find peace and come home to us, that he would be released from this torment that was plaguing his mind and his choices. I could feel his internal battle of something being wrong. I never heard it from his mouth, but could see it all over his face. I pleaded that this feeling of panic I had would be calmed tonight, that whatever it took for him to come home and be the father I needed him to be…would happen.
Maybe he could get arrested and sit in jail for a few nights, thinking of this amazing life. Maybe he would want to come home to live it. Maybe he could get in a wreck and sit in a hospital bed, finding a realization that his wife and children were worth it…..worth taking care of, worth being the father for and sweetheart too. At least maybe he could see that we were worth coming home to. After my prayer I held my screaming baby in one hand…I held my scriptures in the other hand and bounced.
For two hours I bounced. My phone sat near by…silent. Bouncing….Screaming….tears rolling down my cheeks. Something was so wrong. About 10:00 I was overcome by sheer panic. I called and text him many times….no response….but how was this different than the hundreds of times he had ignored my pleas? 2 more hours ….bouncing….waiting….crying…..panic….. reading….singing to my hysterical infant. Would he ever stop crying? Midnight. Baby stopped crying and fell asleep. Now what? Now I was really alone and the pain sunk even deeper in my empty heart. I went to reach for my phone….who could I call?
Emmett wouldn’t answer….what would I say to my Mom, or my sisters? Would anyone believe me….something was wrong…I had been saying it for months. No one really seemed to believe me. I finally decided to lie down and try to sleep. My head hit my pillow, but the tears just slid down my face. I guess I kind of knew in my heart that someone was on their way to tell me he had been in a wreck and I could go see him….or he had been in a fight and I could go bail him out….at least he would be forced to need me. At least I could look him in the eye and tell him I was here for him…and maybe for once in all these crazy months he would hear me. Maybe this time, he would be in a place to feel our love pouring out all over him.
1:00 A.M. Knock..knock…knock. I had fallen asleep, I don’t know how, but now I was jolted awake in a dreamy fog. Was all this real….yes, and it was all going to be ok…right? Yes. Everything would be fine. Right?….each step to the door felt heavier and heavier, and my heart was racing like I had just run a thousand miles. Door opens….3 people I had never seen before. Asked if I was me….asked to come in.
“NO, I don’t know you. Just tell me where he is so I can go talk to him!” Mam, please let us in. “NO! I am here alone with my 5 babies and I don’t want you in my house. Just tell me!” Please Ashlee…..please….my sister Ali pulls up to the house. A true inspiration on the part of her boyfriend who had a strong feeling that she needed to head over.
Ali was here, I was going to be ok. “Fine. come in! Now tell me where he is.” We need you to sit down. “I don’t want to freaking sit” Ok. We all sat down around my couch, everyone fidgeting and won’t look me in the eye. “Mam…there has been an accident…..and your husband was killed at the Walgreens on Linder.” (It was also at this same visit that she first finds out that he was murdered because he was having an affair with another woman).
I don’t remember a single word, just phrases and pieces. I could not breath, my heart was pounding into my lungs and my lungs were full of all the lies, all the secrets that were finally being told to me. And now he was gone. No “I am sorry’s. No “Please forgive me’s.
Nothing but emptiness, humiliation, and utter despair. He was gone. The man I had promised to stick with it, through the good and the bad. Now I had all the answers on why it was going so wrong, and he wasn’t even here for me to work really hard with to make it all right. All I could think about was those 5 babies sleeping soundly in their beds, having no idea of the shattering of their universe that had just taken place. Where would I even begin?
Could I just lie….could I cover all the bad stuff and just say he got in a car wreck….NO. That would just be more lies. Lies is what got us here. Plus, if they didn’t hear it from me they would hear it from friends or read it on the Internet one day, then look back and think I was the liar. But how could I let them hear this? Me, a mother that hated my kids to even play with toy guns, the mother who skipped over the word killed or dead, or murdered in our scriptures. And now their super hero, the man who was supposed to always protect them and keep them safe had been brutally gunned down because he was sleeping with another Man’s wife.
How could I change that story to protect my innocent babies minds? That night was filled with these questions and turmoil inside myself. I wanted to be able to protect this man that I had loved for 7 years. I wanted to be able to just take away all the pains that would follow that black night. But that is not how this world works. We have to face truths, we have to be strong for our babies, we have to have faith that even on the worst night of our lives, our Heavenly Father is going to carry us through. Carry us through in our words, carry us through in the painful truths, and carry us through to keep taking another breath….keeping us moving forward and living…not only for ourselves but for the ones who need us.
I remember walking into my closet that night to beg Heavenly Father for a do over. Begged him for answers to why all of this was real. I fell to my knees and pleaded for the peace that I needed. The most peaceful feeling came over my body. A still small voice whispered to my heart. “BE STILL”….I have been here, I am still here. Angels have guarded this home and each of you. None of that has changed. It will be hard, but you have to keep moving forward. You have to have faith for a brighter day that will come as long as you keep protecting these sweet children and having faith in Me. You are not alone, you have been watched over, I am proud of you. I believe in you. Now is the time when you have to decide if your testimony has been in your perfect life and your husband, or if your testimony is in Me. Ashlee, Be still. Breath. You did all that you can. You did your best. I am so proud of you. You were an amazing wife, you are an incredible mother. You are still you. Do not let this define who you will become. You are still the Ashlee that you have always been and I see so much good in you. Believe in yourself and do not doubt who you are because of the pain that you feel so deeply. Find forgiveness and peace. This is the time to find the beauty that is still all around you. Make the world a better place for those children I have blessed you with. I will carry you when it gets unbearable, but I need you to STAND.”
But if not
Ashlee’s story goes to demonstrate where her faith ultimately lied. She could have easily been angry at the gospel or angry at God. She had been living righteously all of her life and now here she was, a widow with five children and all this due to the selfishness of other individuals. She was a widow because her husband had cheated on her was confronted by Kandi’s husband. You can’t write stories this dramatic.
Daniel 3:17-18 is probably one of the greatest demonstrations of what faith truly is and ultimately where it should lie. We all know the story. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were told to bow down and worship a golden image set up by the king. That king’s name was Nebuchadnezzar and told them that if they did not bow down, they would be cast into a burning fiery furnace.
Their response was nothing short of epic and shows that they understood the principle of faith and understood that their faith rested in Christ and not in some arbitrary outcome that they had hoped to see. In Daniel 3:17-18
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not server thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
How awesome is that! They understood that Christ could deliver them out of the King’s hands but if not, if their God chose not to save their lives, if their God allowed them to die at the King’s hands, their faith would be unshaken because that outcome (whether they lived or died) did not change the fact that God was God and that they would continue to worship Him regardless.
How often is our faith shaken when we don’t see an outcome in our lives? Where we prayed so hard for something that we desperately wanted or needed? I know that I’ve done this countless of times and still find myself in these situations. The key three words from the scripture above is “but if not.” We know that Christ can do (fill in the blank) but if not, our faith in Him will not diminish. Their faith was so strong that it demonstrated that they understood the power that Christ had and what He could do but if He chose not to intercede, if He chose not to save their lives, they would not believe in Him any less.
Regardless of the outcomes in our lives, our faith needs to be placed in the idea that regardless of what happens, regardless of how God chooses to bless our lives or not, we will still have faith in Christ because He is real. Regardless of whether we receive a particular blessing, we still understand that Christ is still our Savior. We understand that He loves us and that ultimately, He has a plan for all of us.
As Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego had demonstrated before and as Ashlee is currently demonstrating; their faith was not based in outcomes but rather in Christ Himself and in His atoning sacrifice. They knew that God lived and that He could save them from the fiery furnace that laid before them.
In the case of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, He did. In the case of Ashlee, He allowed her to go through the fiery furnace of losing a husband and raising five children on her own. In either case, regardless of the outcomes that transpired, neither lost their faith. Both stood their ground and said “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand… But if not”, we will still stand tall in the face of adversity. We will still look forward with faith knowing that we will not coward down, we will not give in and that we will not “serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” We will still be faithful as we know the true God whom we serve.
We should take courage from these amazing individuals of their exemplary faith so that when we face our own personal fiery furnace, we too will come forth polished as gold.
* If you would like to read more about Ashlee’s journey, she has a blog and it can be found at The Moments We Stand. *
5 Replies to “But If Not…”
Amazing <3 thanks for sharing her story ..
Years ago as a young military wife with 2 small children, my husband, a former branch president, cheated on me with a high school sweetheart and secretly married her after we divorced. I was beyond devastated. Ward members took sides and it was difficult at times to attend church. I was not as strong as you and wasted three years being bitter. Your story is so important. It is about love and forgiveness. What a wonderful example you are to other women who may share a similar challenge. Thank you for sharing you strength.