Teen with Down syndrome visits mother’s grave to tell her that he graduated

An emotional student’s visit to the cemetery has moved thousands of people. This is the story behind it.

When Paul Marshall, Jr. heard his name announced on graduation day, he danced across the football stadium to claim his diploma. The teenager has officially graduated from Haughton High School, and he couldn’t be prouder of himself for the achievement. “I’m just happy when they called my name,” he said.

And there was one special person he would like to share the good news with – his mother.

Courtesy of Marshall family | KSLA12

Unfortunately, his mom, Latonya Marshall, couldn’t be there to celebrate the momentous occasion with her son. She died of cancer in 2009 when Paul Jr. was nine years old. Although he misses her so much, the teen finds comfort knowing that his mother is in good hands.

“God has my mom,” he explained. “And my grandmother will take care of my mom.”

His dad Paul Sr. knew the years following Latonya’s death wouldn’t be easy, but they “learned how to endure.”

“She always wanted the best for Paul Jr.,” he said. “Her last dying words were, ‘I just want to see Paul Jr. graduate’.”

Courtesy of Marshall family | KSLA12

And so Paul Jr. took it upon himself to let his mom know that he finally earned his high school diploma. Leading up to graduation day, Paul Jr. told his dad he wanted to go by the cemetery to visit his mom’s grave and take some flowers.

And on the way to graduation that day, the duo did just that. When they arrived, Paul Sr. decided to capture the moment on video. Paul Jr. walks up to Latonya’s grave, and instead of immediately placing the bouquet on her grave, he prepared to say a little speech for her.

“Mommy, I’ve got something to say,” he began. “I did it. I graduated today. I know you’d be proud of me and happy. I love you so much.”

Son honors mom in the cemetery on day of graduation.
YouTube

Before they left the cemetery, Paul Jr. placed the flowers on her headstone, kissed his hand, and held it to her headstone. You can tell by this simple act just how much he missed his mother and how much she meant to him.

Paul Jr.’s path to graduation had been a rocky one. He has suffered from several medical issues since birth, as he was born with only one functioning kidney and a defective heart. He was also diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Less than a year before his graduation, the time came for Paul Jr. to address one of his pending medical issues – his heart. A few months after having a new heart valve put in, his doctors said that Paul Jr.’s single working kidney had to be replaced. Paul Sr. and Paul Jr. then underwent 8 hours of surgery, as the father donated his kidney to his son.

A visit to the cemetery to honor mom.
YouTube

But no matter what situation he’s in, Paul Jr.’s zest for life is palpable.

“If you’re having a bad day, or going through something, Paul Jr. is the person you want to be around and talking to that day,” said his dad, Paul Sr.

“Paul Jr. could be hospitalized for 5 days, and on the 6th day, he’s out and laughing,” he added.

Although he would miss high school, Paul Jr. is already setting goals for the future. He is planning to attend Bossier Parish Community College.

Watch the sweet video below of Paul Jr. visiting his mom in the cemetery. Prepare some tissues – the teen’s heartwarming message will surely make you cry.

Paul Jr. is an inspiration not just to his fellow graduates, but also to all of us. Even though his mother is long gone, he never forgets to share his victories with her. While so many people take their families for granted, this teen showed us the importance of spending time with our loved ones, even if they’re no longer with us.

Congratulations on graduating, Paul Jr.!