I don’t think we will ever fully comprehend the impact someone will have on our lives until they are gone. It has been said that no one really hears your voice until you no longer have one. Many artists don’t sell their masterpieces until after they have passed away; many noblemen are not considered smart in the flesh. I think that this is partly due to our human imperfections. When a person dies, most of the time they are remembered for the good that they brought to this world. Why is this true? Why do we wait until someone is gone before we see him or her for who they were?

I believe the day-to-day tasks we all carry, in some ways block our views of each other. It is hard to see the little things we do right for one another, when the things that are done wrong seem so huge. We remember the past sins and imperfections when looking into someone’s eye. We remember any pain they have caused us, and we fester the hate that has boiled for them in a moment of a heated battle. 

When a person is no longer there to look us in the eye, it seems it is then we start to remember the things that were much more deep than face value. When we are left in our despair—when someone passes away or walks away—that is when we have to face the parts of them we could not see.  

I had been through the loss of my first marriage, with the pain of losing the good times—but even worse . . . with a knowledge of all of the bad. I was constantly fighting to remember the wonderful parts of life through the hate that had become the center of my gravity. 

For me, my second marriage—full of walls and triggers—was a tangible circumstance that gave me the opportunity to try to look for the good in the moment. It was easy to see what was hard, and overwhelming to feel the weight of our challenges. With the fear of the past, I was often blinded by it in finding hope in the future. It was a lot easier to see the fault in my situation than to look for the good. 

One weekend my extended family had a reunion. Shawn still had not met many of my cousins, so I was excited to take him for the first time. For weeks we talked about it and anticipated getting out of dodge. We left as the sun came up. It was our first real trip as our new family. 

Shawn and I couldn’t stop talking the whole way there. While the kids focused on their movies and snacks—we focused on each other. We laughed about the funny things the kids were doing and marveled how much they had already grown. We cried as we reminisced about the roads that led us to become the family we now knew. 

Shawn had such a light in his eyes, one I didn’t always notice when I was surrounded by the mundane tasks of parenting and housework. I just watched him as we laughed and drove. I remember a few times getting teared up for the amazing amount of love I felt for him. It wasn’t just the marital connection that I could feel that day—it was as if I could feel our souls starting to see each other in a way they never had before. 

When we pulled up to the reunion my heart was racing as I anticipated introducing Shawn to some of the amazing family members he had never met. I could tell he was nervous and a little overwhelmed with the huge amount of extended family surrounding him. He was welcoming and loving as everyone surrounded him and stared at the new man in our family. 

A few weeks before the reunion my mom asked my girls and me to sing with my little sister Abbey and my cousin Tiffanie. We had practiced many times and I felt confident that I could keep my emotions at bay while we sang. 

After pictures and dinner the program began; our song was at the end of everything. The minute the music began, my thoughts fell back in time—Taylor, Grandma, and Tiffanie and I were at Wicked—hearing the song For Good, and for the first time since Emmett was killed I was remembering him and the good times we had. In that moment, I thought I was singing this song for him. The whys began to race through me and I could feel the past pulling me back. My whole body hurt with each note I sang. Why did he have to die? Why didn’t I get to finish that part of my story? I began to feel my panic attacking.

I looked out in the audience to find my babies—all I could see were two blue eyes looking back at me. Shawn was smiling from ear to ear. A wave of peace filled my soul—I wasn’t here to sing this song for Emmett  . . . these words were for Shawn. 

My heart felt full as I sang the words that had once given me hope for my past, in a time when I had none. Emmett had come into my life and changed me, but Shawn was the owner of the blue eyes that were watching me. He was there as I was figuring out what parts of me were still worth living for. He was holding my hand through all of the heartache I was still fighting to overcome. He was the one I was waking up to every morning—not Emmett. We were not replacements of a void that was lost . . . we loved each other. In that moment as tears rolled down my cheeks—with my heart open for all to see—I knew that one day I was going to figure out how to give Shawn all of me.  One day, I would not be a broken version of myself and I could be everything he deserved. I knew it was going to take time . . . but he was worth it. I did not know what life held for us, but I knew without a doubt—because I knew Shawn . . . I had been changed for good. 

As my thoughts shifted to Shawn, that song became one of hope for the future. I was no longer singing the lonely duet of time gone by—I was professing my love to the man who was standing by my side and loving me . . . for me. 

Sometimes we look back—and other days we look ahead. That weekend I had so many moments that I knew I was right where I belonged. It didn’t have to make sense; I didn’t have to have all the answers of the past . . . because I was surrounded by the future—I was surrounded by love.  

Life is hard. Period. It was hard losing Emmett, and a life I thought I could control. It was hard being a widowed single mother, left by a man who was murdered for sleeping with his paralegal. It was hard being newly remarried and trying to navigate through all my pain to find trust and love again. It is hard being a parent, and some days I question my worthiness to do the job right. It is hard reliving the past, on a journey I would have never chosen for myself . . . but it is right where I am supposed to be. 

I never knew I could be married to my best friend. I never knew that teamwork was possible even through rocky roads. Shawn and I have seen our fair share of mistakes and heartache, but we have been blessed to stand a little taller despite them. He has shown me that repentance and forgiveness are possible in marriage. We have learned a lot about unconditional love. 

Look around you. Everyone you meet is going to change you for good . . . some for the better. Don’t forget to see the little glimpses of hope that are sent to remind you to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It will be hard. It will not always make sense . . . but life—life will change you. Some things we will never know WHY, but as we let go of our fears and make room for faith—we will be shown HOW. 

Maybe most of what we say won’t be remembered until we are gone, but that doesn’t mean we stop trying. Be that friend; be that wife and mother; be that husband and father . . . that will change people for good. What they will remember is that you lived, you loved, and you made every day count. Tomorrow might seem far away, but once today is over . . . it is all we have got. Not all yesterdays are worth remembering, so make today one you will never forget. 

Questions to Ponder:
  1. How can your influence help change others for the better?
  2. How can you embrace the present and the good things in your life to help you be better?
Ashlee Birk is the Author of the blog and book series entitled The Moments We Stand.  In them she tells of her personal journey of healing and seeking peace after the murder of her husband Emmett.  Through her trials she has learned the importance of a personal relationship with her Father in Heaven. She has found light in the darkest of moments—and she has found hope when she thought it was lost.  She has come to find that the grace of Christ is powerful—not only in sin—but also in forgiveness and carrying you through some of your darkest moments.

Ashlee is remarried and resides in Idaho with her husband Shawn and their blended family of six children. They work hard every day to continue their journey of peace and finding the joy in life. Ashlee believes that every day is a gift—and in each one, she has learned to stand.

The Moments We Stand

spouse murdered 11/2011

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