It's Happening: A Letter from Emily on the Day that Would have Been her High School Graduation

By Julie Perine on June 10, 2018 from It’s Happening via

There was a lot of emotion in the bleachers of Wayne Jamison Field May 26 as hundreds of parents witnessed their sons and daughters reaching a major milestone in their lives. But most left late that morning not knowing the emotion which swept across the heart and soul of Sherri Leuliette. Her stepson, Jason Lehosit, is a member of the Bridgeport High School Class of 2018 and she watched with pride as he received his diploma. Her daughter Emily should also have been among the graduates. She passed away 2013 at the age of 14 when, because of an auto-immune issue, a virus attacked her organs. There was a moment of silence at the beginning of the commencement to pay tribute to Emily McIntire, as well as Bonn Kehrer, who would also have been among the graduates.
As Sherri watched graduation, she held a letter in her hands. She had received the correspondence in the mail just the day before her daughter would have graduated from high school. It was written in Emily’s handwriting and addressed to her at her home in Lost Creek. While in the sixth grade, Emily had written the letter to her older self.
Upon finding the letter in her mailbox, Sherri said it took her a while to get her bearings.Then she opened the envelope and began reading the words inside. 
“There was such a spectrum of emotions,” she said. “Even reading it, I was crying, but laughing and crying at the same time. The things that were in the letter, you could hear her say them. It was like having her right there with me.”'
In the letter, Emily talks about how much she likes sixth grade at Bridgeport Middle School and mentions her teachers and best friends by name. She also talks about her thoughts for the future, including the fact that she wants to be a pediatrician, entrepreneur or a psychologist and that she hopes to attend West Virginia University or Louisiana State University. Emily goes on to say she hopes the letter brings a smile to the reader’s face and brings back a lot of good memories. Emily said she hoped to one day get married and have five kids. She also said she loves the saying, “Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.”
As Emily states in the letter, it was her student teacher Ms. Bell, who had given “this awesome assignment.”
As members of this year’s graduating class of BHS received their diplomas, Sherri held onto her daughter’s written words. And then the most ironic thing happened.
“My phone vibrated and I looked down and it was a message from Mrs. (Susannah) Bell, who was the student teacher who had Emily write the letter,” she said. “She had gotten in touch with me through my niece, Wendy Imperial.”
A Facebook post – saying how Sherri had been struggling with graduation, then received the letter in the mail - was shared and ultimately read by Susannah, who had gone on to teach in Syracuse, NY. She had safeguarded the letters for the past six years, mailing them so they would be received by the students around the time of their high school graduation.
Upon reading that Emily had died a couple years after writing the letter, she reached out to the family, extending her sympathies – and sharing something close to her heart. She said she truly believed in signs, even messages, from Heaven. The family agreed that the timely letter was indeed a message from above and they held onto its words tightly.
Susannah Bell did her student teaching for English teacher, Mrs. Lynette Graeber. She said the reason she gave students the assignment to write to their 18-year-old selves is because she had received a similar assignment when she was in school and it made quite an impact on her. She was hoping to provide that same experience for her students at BMS.
"As a student teacher, you only have a short time to impact your first students and I really wanted to give them something they could cherish in the future," she said. "I'm a very reflective person and I love instilling this in my students and those around me because I think it helps us appreciate the little things and see how far we've come."
Susannah said she was shocked and very saddened upon learning that Emily had passed away.
"I wanted to reach out to the family and give my sympathy," she said. "I also shared with them that I had lost my best friend in high school at the age of 16, so I have serious empathy for losing loved ones too soon."
Bell is thankful that social media allowed her to locate Wendy and Sherri and deliver her condolences to them. 
"I just hope it brought them some sense of peace and comfort," she said. 
The letter was meant to be something Emily could cherish. It ended up being something her mother and family will forever cherish. 
“It’s amazing how little things like this can brighten your day and put a smile on your face,” Sherri said. “These milestones are difficult, especially with Jason going through them. I was ironing his graduation gown, thinking I should have two to iron. I knew it was going to be so hard, then the next day I get this letter, letting me know she’s still here.”
Jason had received a letter from his 12-year-old self, too. Not only had Emily injected her wit and humor into her own letter, but she snuck a little into Jason's letter also. Both included a P.S. which said, "I hope you're not a bum."
Those kind of comments perfectly capture Emily's fun personality. As her mom said, it was in "typical Emily fashion." 
Sherri lost another daughter at age 7. Her name was Heaven. The little girl died of aplastic anemia. In the girls’ memory, their family awards a scholarhip each May to a Harrison County graduate. This year’s recipient was Madisen Miles of Robert C. Byrd High School.
Susannah Bell just recently moved to England and is taking an entrepreneur career path as a life coach and blogger. It was bittersweet, she said, to be reminded through Emily's letter that she, too, had aspirations to become an entrepreneur. 
Read Emily's letter below. 
Read about Emily in this 2013 Connect-Bridgeport story: 

Connect Bridgeport
© 2018