One afternoon, I got a call from the detectives letting me know that Rob had requested the release of his truck after it had been held as evidence. I stubbornly shot back my response to that information. “Well, then I request the release of Emmett’s truck as well.” I wasn’t sure that I was really ready to have his brand new truck returned, but I certainly didn’t want Rob to be getting a privilege while “out on bond” that I myself wasn’t receiving as a law-abiding citizen of our community.
Within days, my request was approved and the detectives called to say they were on their way to deliver the truck back to me. I was nervous to see it again. I was afraid of what I would find inside, and I was scared of how my body would react to having that truck parked in my driveway again. Most importantly, I was nervous to drag Shawn through another reminder of my past.
I paced around the house, trying to mentally prepare myself. Soon, there was a knock at my door. My heart pounded as I opened it to the familiar faces of the detectives from the police department. I walked outside, followed by Teage. Kaleeya and Tytus were asleep and the twins were at school, and we didn’t have Jordyn that day. So it was just Teage and me.
The detectives and I chit-chatted for a few minutes while Teage peeked inside the truck’s windows. They told me they had run it through a carwash on their way over to make certain that all of Emmett’s blood had been washed off before I saw it. Just the thought of his blood being on the side of the truck made my own blood grow cold. Shivers ran down my spine and goose bumps popped out all over me. I glanced over toward the truck, trying hard not to get emotionally involved as they talked about the blood that had been on it.
They were very thoughtful and caring as we talked for a few more minutes, and then they headed out. As they drove off, I stood near the vehicle with the keys burning my hand like hot coals. Teage begged me to let him get inside the truck to see what he could find. At first, I resisted to protect my son and myself. I stood frozen, with a million thoughts running through my mind.
That truck almost stood there mocking me. It had seen it all. It had carried the victim straight into the line of fire. It was as black as the hole it made in my heart.
I thought back to the day Emmett had first pulled it into the driveway. He was so proud to finally have his dream car. He had talked about it for years, and finally the time had come. He walked me through every detail of his new prized possession. He showed me how to push every button, and talked up all the special features that were included in his purchase. He was so proud of it in every way.
I pictured the afternoon he had packed the back seat with kids and taken the three oldest to a BSU game. They were so excited to be going with their daddy. I thought about our date nights we spent driving around town. I pictured the false alarm nights we drove down to the hospital thinking Tytus was coming . . . and all of the long drives back home after being turned away. I smiled as I pictured my doughnut dropping crumbs all over that truck. It was a meager trophy for another rejection from the hospital, but it was all my prego belly needed to patiently wait for the next drive it would take in that truck down to the hospital.
I pictured that truck as it drove up to Walgreens on the night of Emmett’s death. All of the sudden Teage tried to grab the keys out of my hands, which quickly snapped me out of my funk. I looked down at him, remembering our cathartic day at Walgreens. That day had turned out to be a leap of healing, and I could feel this one was going to need such a blessing. I stared into his giant blue eyes. I could see the longing he had in his heart, to be in his daddy’s truck. I almost chuckled to myself to think that I was ever going to change his mind, “You know what buddy? Here we go!”
I unlocked the passenger-side door and pulled it open. The truck still smelled new. Emmett’s gym bag was in the back seat, and the entire truck looked exactly like it had the last time I had been inside it. I sat in the passenger seat while Teage jumped into the back. My breathing became heavier, and I could feel myself begin to panic. I asked Teage if he was ready to go back inside the house, but he replied that he wasn’t ready. I tried to remain calm and then asked him a few more times.
Teage wouldn’t get out. He refused to leave the truck. For a few minutes, I continued to calmly beg him to go inside with me, and then it hit me . . . I needed this too.
So now, I had a silent partner who craved the search for clues almost more than I did. He rummaged through the back seat, while I read every receipt and went through all of the console compartments I could find. I knew that all the evidence needed for the case would have been kept at the police department, but I searched for more clues anyway.
It was almost like I had been building a puzzle. Each bit of information and every new fact that would arise would give me another piece. Having that truck parked in front of my house was like finding a missing piece to my puzzle. I had run out of things to read in the box in the garage, and after my bad experience with Emmett’s email account, I vowed to never go looking there ever again. The truck gave me a desire to search a whole new realm of the past.
I turned the ignition on and pushed play on the CD player. The music had Emmett’s typical punk flavor, but with a romantic twist. It was a song I had never heard before. I pushed eject. The CD had been made the day of his death, and the date was written in his own handwriting. I cringed thinking about that. Had this CD been made for her?
Suddenly, my phone alarm went off, reminding me that it was time to go pick up the twins from school. I grabbed Teage out of the back seat and we ran inside to wake up the babies. They were both in a deep sleep. I disliked waking them up to go only a block to pick up the twins, but even more so on that day . . . I hated being forced to leave my search.
I got everyone buckled in their seats and we drove off to the school. I called Shawn on the way to share some of my emotions with him. He listened calmly and reassured me that everything was going to be okay. I got a little emotional and said, “This is so hard. I didn’t realize it was going to be so hard to have the truck back.”
The twins jumped into the car, and at the top of his lungs, Teage chirped, “Guys . . . Daddy’s truck is home! Want to play in it and pretend that he is driving us somewhere, when we get home?”
My heart sank. Here we go again. I knew that we were going to have another interesting night filled with memories of the past, but nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. I ended my conversation with Shawn just as we turned onto our street.
We pulled up into the driveway and parked in the garage. The kids hurried out of our Yukon and booked it to their dad’s truck, dropping their backpacks as they ran. They hopped inside, and for thirty minutes they rummaged through his stuff. They tried on his clothes, tied his tie around their necks, put his earphones in their ears, read all of the receipts, and pushed every button in that truck. They were having fun playing with his stuff, and I was actually enjoying myself as I listened to their laughter.
A short time later, Shawn’s truck pulled up. I was surprised to see him home so early, and I knew he had come to comfort me. He stepped out and I was surprised to see that he was as white as a ghost. I had feared the return of this truck might affect him as well. In many ways, he already felt like he was a replacement for Emmett . . . and now here Emmett’s truck sat in front of our house as a loud reminder of the past.
He began to run toward me. He grabbed me and pulled me toward the house. “Ash . . . there is blood all over the other side of the truck. You can’t see it from this side, but it is all over the other side. Have the kids seen it?”
My throat began to close up. “No! What are we going to do? We haven’t gone over to that side. They CANNOT see it! That is their dad’s blood. I . . . I . . . can’t handle this . . .” I burst into tears and ran toward the truck. The kids were so into their make-believe, that they didn’t notice the tears in my eyes. I slowly walked around to the other side. Sure enough, the carwash had not removed the blood from the truck. As plain as day, Emmett’s truck was covered in his blood.
My heart dropped. I lost it. I don’t remember anything from that moment on, but soon I found myself running through my room and into my sanctuary. I was hysterical . . . again . . . alone in my closet. This time, I wasn’t in there begging for a “do-over.” I was begging for a “when is this going to be over?”
I had been in that closet so many times, but never before with a visual of the blood that Emmett had lost. My heart had hurt for the unknown of the past, but never before because of what I had viewed with my own eyes. Having that truck back was hard, but knowing that it carried the blood stains of a man that I loved was almost more than I could bear. I knew the mess of the past was not over, but I hadn’t known it was going to be so apparent on the side of that truck.
I was again reminded that just because I had remarried and hoped for a new normal, that didn’t mean it was an overnight process. Every tear I shed that day was just as hard as the ones that had come before I met Shawn.
Once I calmed down, I knew I needed to get outside to help the kids in case they were also having a hard time. I swallowed the last of my tears and started to make my way outside. I went to the front window to scope out the situation. I wasn’t sure if anyone else had seen the blood, or how they were handling it, if they had.
I looked outside at a scene that is almost impossible to put into words. There was Shawn, covered in suds, along with all of the kids with scrub brushes in their hands . . . and together they were scrubbing Emmett’s truck.
No one was crying, and in fact, each child had a huge grin on his or her face. They were talking and laughing and having the time of their lives. For several minutes, I sat at that window with tears falling down my face. No mother has ever prepared to see a scene such as this. A moment that had initially seemed as if it were going to break me all over again, turned into a vision of hope and peace.
Shawn didn’t panic or run away. Instead, he jumped in and changed the course of that day. Not one of the kids ever saw the blood. Shawn didn’t say a word about why they were cleaning the truck. He made it a game, and he included each child as part of his team. He told them that they were cleaning the truck for Emmett.
Shawn did not step in as a replacement for Emmett. He came to save me from the many moments that would come to remind me of the past and try to break me.
Blood. It has the ability to stain, but it also has the potential to sustain life. It is such a powerful substance, and yet, when it is shed . . . it has the power to end a life and change the course of the lives of everyone around the victim.
Blood has been spilt; mistakes have been made in all of our lives . . . be we mustn’t miss the suds foaming up around us to wipe the blood away. The blood on that truck was Emmett’s, but Shawn wasn’t afraid to take Emmett’s babies and teach them how to wipe it clean . . . for him.
I realized that day, even more than I knew it previously, that Shawn and Emmett were a team. Rob wasn’t the only one who had messed up. Emmett had made serious mistakes that got us to where we were that particular day, but he had also helped me find Shawn to assist his family in cleaning up his mess.
From the window that afternoon, I watched it take place, and I have seen it every day since. Shawn wasn’t sent to replace Emmett. No, he was prepared to carry us through in a way Emmett could not. He was there to help me clean up our past, so we could see the beauty that was all around us.
Shawn is not a perfect man. We have had so many bumps as a blended family that are yet to be told in our story. There have even been nights when we didn’t think we would make it, but in many moments . . . he has perfectly shown ME how to stand.
When our Savior suffered in Gethsemane, He bled from every pore. He physically felt every single pain every single person who ever walks the earth has felt or will feel. He felt the pain I have carried since Emmett’s death. He counted my babies’ tears. He felt the pain Emmett suffered that night. He felt the sorrow of Emmett’s parents who have not only had to lose their son, but who have had to sit through a trial and hear every detail of how he was murdered. He has even felt the pain of those who sit in a jail cell all alone.
I know that not everyone will physically see with their own eyes the spilt blood that has caused them so much pain, but each one of us will, at one time or another, be wronged. Christ has felt the pain of every hurt.
He has fallen to his knees in pain. He has cried out, “Father, remove this cup from me.” He has wondered, “When will this pain ever be done.” Just like I fell to my knees praying for a promise that my pain would one day cease, our Savior has felt a hurt so excruciating that caused even Him to pray to see an end. He not only has felt our pain, He has prayed for a way out of it.
Knowing that we are not alone can help us remember that even our pain will one day find peace.
He didn’t suffer through that pain because it was easy, or because He wanted to . . . He did it because He loves each one of us. He knows each one of our names, He sees the honesty and sincerity of our hearts, and in the noble and honorable things we do, He smiles at our progress.
He sheds a tear as He watches his little ones scrub their own father’s blood off of trucks, but He also smiles as He sees the willing “fathers” step up to the plate. He knows these challenges are not easy. He knows there are not many willing to take on “burdens” such as this . . . but that is what makes those who do so special.
We are each unique and special in the moments when we stand. Don’t wait around for the world to change, find a way to stand strong regardless of its constant spinning.
No one will ever be right where you are, but Christ has been there. He has cleaned up the “blood” we have spilt through our poor choices, and He has bled from every pour . . . for us! Blood is real . . . and death is inevitable . . . but that is what makes life so precious. Never take a day for granted. The blood of this world has already been cleaned up by a loving Savior who has wiped it away for each and every one of us. All we have to do is ask, and He will willingly wipe our past clean.
You are not forgotten, and your past is not insignificant. He has seen your tears and heard your prayers. Even your blood is enough for Him to purify. Tomorrow might still bring reminders of the messes that have been made in the past, but they can be made clean. Turn to the only one who has the power to scrub even the toughest of stains. Heavenly Father will never let one drop of blood go unaccounted for, and He will never forget one tear. He is the light and life of this world, and because of his blood . . . we can have Eternal life.
Questions to Ponder:
- How does knowing that Christ suffered for you help you to go on?