Flying Michael Home









Michael Emberlin came into my life in 2005 when I started dating his dad, Joe. I had the privilege of becoming his step mother on October 6, 2007. Having just turned 16 Michael was full of life. Michael was gregarious, adventurous, funny, and sweet. He was charismatic. He had a kind of charm that, even if you were mad at him, you couldn’t stay mad. His smile was infectious and I have many memories of us eating dinner and Mike cracking us up with a story about he and his friends. One of the many things I found incredible about being a part of this family is that from the very start Michael’s mom Sandy was willing to allow me to be a parent to her 2 sons. She never undermined any boundaries I set and we always co-parented as a unit, never separately. Her kindness and acceptance of me was extended via her boys as well. One of the things I loved and respected about Mike was his acceptance of me right from the start. Michael was very close with his mom Sandy and he didn’t have to accept me. He was at an age where many children have a hard time accepting their parents dating other people. Naturally, I was concerned about this as well. My fears were quicky put to rest by Michael’s kindness. From the start he treated me like I was a part of the family.  I have always considered the fact that Michael had 4 parents instead of 2 to be a blessing, not a curse.
Unfortunately, things began to change for all of us and not in a positive way. When Michael was expelled from high school and subsequently began being arrested for drug possession, our lives were set upon a path none of us would have chosen. For the next 11 years we became experts on drugs and drug treatment, probation, incarceration, and parole. Sandy took the brunt of the nightmare and endured countless days, weeks, and sometimes months of wondering where he was and if he was safe. Sandy’s worst fear was that Michael would end up taking his own life or die from an overdose. Her worst fears came true on December 23, 2017 when she received the call every mother dreads. Michael had passed away from an accidental overdose of heroin. He was 28 years old. For reasons unknown to his family, Michael was in Georgia when he passed away. Michael’s grandparents, Pat and Christine Kirkman, have graciously extended their help to get Michael home. The expense is enormous when a loved one must be shipped home. It is my hope, with the assistance of this Go Fund Me campaign, that we can raise enough money to help Christine and Pat pay for Michael’s flight home and his funeral.
Costs accrued include transportation to the morgue, toxicology screening and report, transportation to the funeral home in Georgia, embalming fee, transportation from the funeral home to the Atlanta Airport, the ticket for the flight to Des Moines, transportation by the funeral home from the Des Moines airport to the funeral home and from there the costs associated with the funeral service itself for Michael.
The funds are needed as soon as possible as Michael's funeral is Saturday. With the devastation we are all dealing with losing Michael so young, I hope this campaign will help to lessen the sting of it all.  I will be in charge of making sure the funds collected are given directly to Christine and Pat Kirkman and/or any of the businesses we owe money to for Michael's final flight home or funeral services.
Thank you for taking the time to read our story. Michael lost his battle with addiction but there is comfort in knowing he is no longer suffering. And in time, there will be comfort knowing he is home with God and watching over all of us who love and miss him. 



  • Michele Hillaker 
    • $20 
    • 44 mos
  • Pat & Stan Staude 
    • $25 
    • 44 mos
  • Jack Zappone 
    • $100 
    • 44 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $40 
    • 44 mos
  • Tom Hanly 
    • $500 
    • 44 mos
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Dina Emberlin 
Organizer
Des Moines, IA
Christine Kirkman 
Beneficiary
  • #1 fundraising platform

    More people start fundraisers on GoFundMe than on any other platform. Learn more

  • GoFundMe Guarantee

    In the rare case something isn’t right, we will work with you to determine if misuse occurred. Learn more

  • Expert advice, 24/7

    Contact us with your questions and we’ll answer, day or night. Learn more