PRESCOTT, AZ - It has become a little easier to laugh and smile as a sense of normalcy returns back to Julian Ashcraft’s home, a year after her husband, Andrew Ashcraft, died in the Yarnell Hill fire.
“It’s a matter of putting one foot in front of another,” she said.
Her four children, Ryder, 7, Shilo, 5, Tate, 3, and Choice, 2, have dealt with a rollercoaster of emotions as they adjust to life without their dad.
“I’m still trying to grieve,” she said. “Now I’m parenting children who are also grieving. So it’s been a huge learning experience.”
She has learned how to deal with the reality that her husband and father of her four children is never coming home.
“We are still trying to get our bearings about us and figure out how to move forward,” Ashcraft said.
She said with each step comes struggles, like the bittersweet moment of watching her youngest son take his first steps without his father, or sending her oldest off to a father-son camping trip with loving uncles filling some pretty big shoes, or her daughter’s first daddy-daughter dance.
She knew all of these moments would be hard.
“But we’ve gone over that first hurdle,” Ashcraft said.
She says that nothing hurts more than hearing the pain of her oldest, Ryder.
“He’ll say mom, do you know what it is like to be a little boy who can’t say daddy to anyone anymore,” she said.
Her youngest, Choice, will also say “dad” when he sees a flag or a big fire truck. Those are the only memories the two-year-old has of the father he barely got to know.
“I want to do anything I can for our future. To tell our kids that their dad loved them, will always love them,” Ashcraft said.
She hopes that the memory of her husband and their father will make everything hurt less.
“I want my kids to have more happy days than sad.”