I’ll Always Be with You

I’ll Always Be with You

From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul

I’ll Always Be with You

On a quiet September night our 17-year-old son, Mike, got into his cherished yellow ’68 Mustang, his heart broken after the sudden ending of his first romance. His girlfriend had told him she was going to get engaged to someone else. Sitting in the car he had so lovingly restored and treasured, Mike shot and killed himself. In the note he left, he wrote: “I wish I could have learned how to hate. . . . Don’t blame yourselves, Mom and Dad. I love you.” His note ended “Love, Mike, 11:45 P.M.” At 11:52 P.M. that night, we and Mike’s older brother, Vic, pulled into the driveway alongside Mike’s car—seven minutes too late!

It wasn’t long before stories about Mike started coming in from all sides. We heard many of them for the first time. His oldest friend, Danny, told us about the time he was frightened to have his picture taken in kindergarten. “It’s easy. Just go like this,” Mike assured him as he grinned fromear to ear, displaying the bright smile that became his trademark. Years later, when a classmate became a single parent, Mike helped her care for her baby. One of Mike’s friends was shot in a drive-by shooting but recovered, with Mike’s support. When his high school band went to Florida tomarch in the Orange Bowl parade,Mike assisted a fellow band member who was blind.

A young mother phoned to tell the story of how Mike had helped her when her car broke down. She and her children were stranded on the roadside when Mike came by. He stopped, showed her his driver’s license to assure her he wouldn’t hurt her and her children, and got her car started. He followed them home to make sure they arrived safely.

One of Mike’s friends revealed the truth about why Mike never got the new transmission we thought he planned to install in his Mustang in preparation for the local drag race. Mike canceled his order for the transmission and instead bought two transmissions from a salvage yard—so his friend could get his car running, too. Mike had told us the reason he didn’t buy the brand-new transmission was that it just wasn’t right for the way he wanted his car to perform.

Mike’s niece was born with cerebral palsy. He learned how to replace her tracheotomy tube and how to perform CPR, should the need arise. He learned sign language with her (the tracheotomy tube made it impossible for her to speak), and they would “sing” together in sign language.

In the days following Mike’s death, many teenagers came to comfort us and asked if they could do anything to help. Our response to their question was: “Don’t ever do this. Don’t commit suicide. Reach out to someone and ask for help!” Before Mike’s memorial service, Mike’s close friends met with us to share their grief, tell their stories about their friendship with him and discuss the tragedy of teen suicide.We talked about ways to prevent teen suicide. This was how the Yellow Ribbon Project came to life.

We decided to establish a foundation dedicated to eliminating suicide, a leading cause of death among teens. Within days after Mike’s death, we began printing pocket-sized cards that read:

YELLOW RIBBON PROJECT
In loving memory of Michael Emme

THIS RIBBON CARD IS A LIFELINE! It carries the message that there are those who care and will help. If you are in need and don’t know how to ask for help, take this card to a counselor, teacher, clergy, parent or friend and say:

“I NEED TO USE MY YELLOW RIBBON!”

Someone, remembering Mike’s beloved yellow Mustang, had the idea of attaching yellow ribbons to the cards, which we did. At Mike’s memorial service we set out a basket containing 500 of these yellow-ribbon cards. By the end of the service, the basket was empty (and Mike’s Mustang was covered with 100 yellow miniature roses, put there by his friends).

Mike’s tragic death made us decide to help others, just as Mike did during his life. In the time since Mike’s death, the Yellow Ribbon Project has touched—and saved—the lives of teens around the world. We receive many letters from teenagers about the Yellow Ribbon Project with comments such as:

“Your Web site has helped me recover from my depression.”

“I’ve tried to commit suicide several times. This time I found the Yellow Ribbon card in my pocket and held onto it until a friend came by and I was able to give them the card. They recognized that I was suicidal and gotme help.”

“Thank you for being there to let those without hope know that there is always someone who cares.”

Mike’s final letter to us contained another important message. In that letter he told us, “I’ll always be with you.” Every time we speak to a group of teenagers or receive a letter froma teen or child who needs help, we knowMike’s words are true.

Dale and Dar Emme

[EDITORS’ NOTE: This story, which was first printed in A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul in April 1996, has resulted in an even greater distribution of The Yellow Ribbon Project. The following are excerpts from some of the letters the Emmes received.]

Jessica Magers

My name is Jessica and I am a senior in high school. I was very deeply touched by your story. I am a survivor of depression and suicidal impulses. I’ve struggled with this for the past five years and if I hadn’t had someone who reached out to help me, I would not be here.

Last week a senior in high school shot himself. What if someone had stopped him and asked him how he was and really meant it? I think that would have made the difference between life and death.

So if you could please send information, suggestions and ribbons, I would greatly appreciate it. I’ve wanted to get the message out about teen suicide but never knew how. Thank you for helping me.

I found out about The Yellow Ribbon Project in A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Your story really made me think about how much my friends and family mean to me, and if an occasion should arise when they do use their ribbon then I will be ever more grateful for your idea of creating The Yellow Ribbon Project. Thank you,

Nicole Nero

Two months ago I broke up with my boyfriend who I loved very much. I could not deal with the pain and emptiness so I attempted suicide. I spent the night in I.C.U., the pills I took caused me to stop breathing.

Because I am only 16, a straight-A student with everything going for me, this event shocked me and I realized I have a lot to live for and also my parents could not bear it if I were dead. So I am writing to ask if I could get two of your yellow ribbons. One for me and for my best friend. Thank you very much,

Jen Vetter

[EDITORS’ NOTE: For information on The Yellow Ribbon Project, please see p. 336.]

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