The trial date had been set. With the knowledge that it would be just months away I felt our life, in our blended family, would be able to start for real once it was complete. I constantly longed for the day when I could walk in that courtroom and let my voice be heard, and I truly believed that our new life would really begin once it was over.
Since our marriage, all that I thought would change in our “new life” did not. Every morning I would sit on my bathroom counter and rehearse the words I would say at the trial in my mind as I applied my makeup. I still continued to scream at Rob, Kandi, and Emmett when driving alone in the quiet solitude of my car. I still had triggers that would ignite and throw me back in time. I still struggled with anxiety about leaving my house. I was insecure in my marriage, and in the role of being a wife. However, in my heart . . . I truly thought that the single moment the trial ended so would all of the issues in myself and in our family.
We swept a lot of our adjustment problems as a blended family under the rug, to keep our selves stable for the pending trial. We knew it was our biggest issue, so any others that would arise seemed to be so small. We had a few little arguments about the kids, but for the most part it seemed I was still running on autopilot in an effort to make it to court. Anything else was petty and trivial, and therefore left unresolved and pushed aside.
Soon the trial was only a few weeks away. I craved the moment when I would get to read my victim statement and let that courtroom hear my pain. The silence I had forced upon myself was ready to break in that courtroom and I almost counted down the days when I could look Rob in the eye and tell him how his actions broke my family.
One morning the big kids were at school and the little ones and I were at the grocery store. We were almost done with our list when my phone rang, a blocked number . . . pit in my stomach. It was the victim witness coordinator, “Ashlee, hey . . . so the . . . the trial . . . they are going to have to move the date. We had all planned it being next month, but they are thinking they need another six months or so for everyone to collect more evidence and get all the tests back, I know this is going to be hard for you to continue to wait for, but I hope you will understand why they . . . they just need more time.”
We talked for a while about what this delay would mean for me. She was very thoughtful as she spoke and reassured me that they were working as hard as they could to find the truth in every aspect of the case. The truth, a desire I needed just as much as them. I felt confident in waiting as we hung up the phone and I continued in my shopping.
I walked around the store with almost no emotion, feeling brave and strong. I unloaded my groceries out of the cart and robotically bagged each one. After paying the clerk and getting all of my sacks back in the cart I could feel my tears trying to find their way out. I had a panic raging, but it was a new form of emotion. Not a panic of “is this ever going to end” like I thought it might be, it was like that phone call drilled a hole in my heart. It was a deeper despair than any I had ever felt.
Waiting longer for the trial was going to destroy me; I could feel it. Though the outcome wouldn’t make a difference in my life, waiting for it created space for another void of loss to grow inside of me. I longed for that trial; I yearned to hear the full story and put all the missing pieces together in my head. I needed to hear from all the specialists, and witnesses . . . what they had seen and heard. I hoped that their stories would help feel in the gaps in my own.
As I pushed my cart full of food and children out to the car tears silently streamed down my face. Six more months… My despair sank deep in my soul. My life felt heavy as I drove home from the store and unloaded the groceries. Everything around me looked dark.
For the next few days I was a stone cold zombie. I didn’t even know how to feel. I felt so disconnected from my family and especially from Shawn. I tried so hard to push away the gloom, but nothing seemed to make me want to smile. I didn’t want to wallow in it, but I didn’t know how I was going to let it go.
That next weekend was the Women’s broadcast for LDS General Conference. A few friends invited me to go, but in my self pitied gloom I told them I had other plans. I didn’t really have anything else going on, except for my own personal pity party.
As the afternoon began to turn into evening on Saturday, the day of the broadcast, something kept urging me to let go of my bitterness and go with my friends. I fought it all day long. Shawn asked me all day what was wrong but I never opened up to him. After asking me what was wrong for the twentieth time I told him what I was struggling with. I was feeling too dark to attend the broadcast. As those words left my lips, I knew what I needed to do. I headed to my closet and threw on a skirt.
I walked into the living room where my family was playing. I could see their beautiful eyes, and I could hear their tender voices, but I could not feel an ounce of their love. They all gave me a kiss and I headed out to the garage and got into my car.
As the door shut I could again feel darkness sink a little deeper inside of me. I offered a small prayer, “Heavenly Father, I know it is so simple compared to the past but this date change for the trial is weighing on my heart. I can’t seem to feel anything but utter despair. Somehow I am waiting to take my next breath when this trial gets over, and the thought of waiting to breath for another six months is going to kill me. I . . . I just . . . I need to know that you are still here. I feel so alone, I am so scared, and though this murder trial isn’t going to bring Emmett back, I feel like . . . it has to come to help me heal. We aren’t living life as we wait, so why can’t it just be now, so I can let it go. I can’t feel anything, I can’t even feel the spirit today. Everything is like a black fog and I am scared that if I go another six months living like this, I am not going to be able to feel anything ever again. I just, I feel like, maybe somewhere along the way . . . you don’t remember I am still here . . . I feel so forgotten.”
My car pulled into the parking lot, and my prayer was cut short. I looked into the review mirror. I quickly swiped my fingers under each eye in hopes that no one would notice I had been bawling like a baby.
Everyone was still eating their dinner in the gym. I walked in. I could see the friends who had invited me all sitting around a table in the back. I passed my sister in law and all of her cute friends. She came over and gave me a big hug and asked me to sit with them. I already felt guilty that I had told my friends that I had other plans and I had showed up any way, so I decided to go sit with them.
After most of the girls had finished eating they headed into the chapel to get seats. It was just one other girl and me left at our table. I didn’t know her that well and hadn’t had a chance to talk much with her. She asked a few questions about me, and then about the trial. Like a broken dam had just burst I spewed out parts of my story that I had hardly told anyone. The single world, “trial” sparked in me all the anger I had about the postponed date and my new knowledge that I had to keep my pain bottled up even longer. She just stared at me in complete shock. She listened for a few more minutes. It felt good to open up and let out some of my pain.
I walked into the broadcast just as they were about to say the opening prayer. My sudden spew of emotion at the dinner table hadn’t brought me any more feeling of peace, but a darker despair that seemed to be swirling even harder around my mind.
The speakers began. I listened, still without feeling, to each of their words. Hoping for a time when I could go back and reread their truths, I tried hard to take notes for myself for later. One talked about what she wants her granddaughters to know someday. Another speaker spoke about charity. The last woman talked about holding fast to our promises that we make.
The last speaker was announced. Uchtdorf! He had always been one of my favorites, so I was excited on this day of feeling emotionally numb to hear his words.
He began. He said he was excited to be speaking and how honored he was to be there. Then his talk began.
Read or listen to full talk here: Forget Me Not by Dieter F. Uchtdorf
As he spoke about the tiny “forget me not” flower and picturing it surrounded by all the other large flowers in the garden, like it was pleading with the Lord, “Forget me not, O Lord” my ears perked up. The very plea I had just cried to Heavenly Father in my car. Just like that tiny flower, I had prayed for a glimpse that I was not forgotten.
Then he spoke about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s “golden ticket”. He taught that when we wait around for a golden ticket, we miss the simple pleasure of opening up a candy bar and eating the chocolate. His entire talk he spoke about truths I had always known, yet somehow that week I had forgotten. He bore his testimony about how not one of us are forgotten to the Lord. Every minute of his talk was a like I was the flowering “forget me not” opening up and standing tall, being proud to be a tiny little flower amongst the beautiful roses. He reminded me that though my problems were overwhelming and seemed impossible, I was not forgotten. All the anger in my heart quickly faded with each word that he spoke.
I knew that his words were not just for me because I wasn’t even supposed to be there that day, but I had come that night just for them. His soul spoke to mine, as he reminded me that I was not forgotten.
The trial was not what was going to bring me to peace. It was not my “golden ticket” to happiness. The only golden ticket that would free me from my pain was Jesus Christ. Maybe the people in the courts had forgotten how this delay would affect me, but I was not forgotten by Him. Just because the moment I was waiting for had been delayed, didn’t mean I was alone. For the first time that week, I felt His love surround me and I knew without a doubt I was not forgotten.
Just like the tiny forget me not flower, God knew right where I was no matter how small I felt. Heavenly Father wanted me to remember Him as my “golden ticket”, and not seek for one in my life.
There is no “golden ticket” that will come our way. There is no golden ticket in forgiveness. Even when we feel we have we done all that we can to forgive others, another opportunity may come our way to learn a different angle of the virtue. We may also find that all the forgiveness we have done, has been just the tip of the ice berg on our journey to true forgiveness. One moment of acknowledging a road to forgiveness is not necessarily the “golden ticket”or the end of its path.
There is no worldly golden ticket that can free us from our pain. No amount of money, clothes, cars, or houses will bring eternal happiness. Not even another person’s words or admiration can free us from the pain inside of us. The false “golden tickets” that the world will send us, may bring temporary relief . . . but they will not heal our hearts.
There is no golden ticket or free pass from fear. Fear and anxieties are real. I was reminded just the other night, that even when I think I have fear under control, it can find a new angle to try to destroy me.
There is no “golden ticket” from any of the hardships we will face. There is no grand event that will teach us all we need to know. Every day is part of our test of mortality, every hour a new lesson on forgiveness, patience, humility, and love. Don’t spend your life waiting for your “golden ticket” of happiness when there are wonderful things all around you.
I couldn’t feel my family’s love, and it was right there in front of me. I was waiting around for the trial to come and be my “golden ticket”. I thought it’s magnificent power would heal my broken heart, close my open wounds, uncloud my dark mind, and help me let go of my pain. And as I waited for it, I lost the moments that were passing me by.
No day is going to be your “golden ticket”. All of us are waiting for something: to be married; to be a parent; to graduate high school; to move to our dream house; to be free of health issues; to be done with college; to lose weight; to not be held back by fear of the past. The lists of things we wait for are never ending. What if today was our last day, and the only thing we had left was right now? I bet as we looked back over our lives, we would wish that we would have spent today enjoying all the little pieces of chocolate that were staring us in the face, instead of opening each wrapper hoping it held the secret ticket to our happiness.
If we don’t enjoy what we have right now, we may never find happiness. It is easy to wait around for your dreams to come true, but not as easy seeing the dreams that are already being played. There is a golden ticket that can bring eternal happiness. It is the knowledge of the truth that lies in each of us. We all have the potential to find the light of the world inside our hearts: the truth that we are not alone; the truth that even though we seem small . . . we are never forgotten.
Questions to Ponder:
- How does the myth of a “golden ticket” prevent you from living life joyfully?
- What can you focus on instead?