Paul Marshall, Jr. danced across the football stadium to claim his diploma when his name was called on graduation day. The adolescent has officially graduated from Haughton High School, and he couldn’t be happier with his accomplishment. “I’m just glad they called my name,” he explained.
And there was one person in particular with whom he wanted to share the good news: his mother.
Unfortunately, his mother, Latonya Marshall, was unable to attend the special occasion with her son. When Paul Jr. was nine years old, she died of cancer. Despite how much he misses her, the teen takes comfort in knowing that his mother is in good hands.
“God has my mother,” he said. “And my grandmother will look after my mother.”
His father, Paul Sr., knew the years after Latonya’s death would be difficult, but they “learned how to endure.”
“She was always looking out for Paul Jr.,” he said. “‘I just want to see Paul Jr. graduate,’ she said as she died.”
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 to 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.”
Paul Jr. kissed his hand and held it to her headstone before they left the cemetery. This simple act demonstrates how much he missed his mother and how much she meant to him.
Paul Jr.’s path to graduation had been difficult. He has had several medical problems since birth, as he was born with only one functioning kidney and a faulty heart. He was also found to have Down syndrome.
Paul Jr. decided to address one of his pending medical issues – his heart – less than a year before his graduation. Paul Jr.’s single functioning kidney had to be replaced a few months after he received a new heart valve. After that, Paul Sr. and Paul Jr. underwent an 8-hour surgery in which the father donated his kidney to his son.
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.