The rite of passage known as high school graduation is a difficult one for a parent to watch. They’re so excited that their babies are taking that plunge into adulthood and heading off to college, the Armed Forces or the workforce.

Parents also can’t hold back the tears as they recall their graduate’s first word, first steps, even the first day of kindergarten –how did they reach high school graduation already? But for one South Carolina dad, his stepson’s high school graduation seemed unreachable.

Last year, Nicholas Hughes was diagnosed with colon cancer. After enduring months of treatment and a grueling surgery, he entered hospice care.

Neither Nicholas nor his doctors expected him to survive until spring when the young man he had raised, Joshua Lee Vaughn, would don his cap and gown to walk across the stage at Byrnes High School and graduate. When Nicholas’ nurses at Wren Hospice learned about this, they decided to take action.

This father and son had had big plans before Nicholas’ diagnosis. They had arranged for a trip to Florida to attend the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute together, but Joshua had to graduate first.

Then, the C-word invaded their lives. But Joshua still holds out hope for both of their futures.

“He’s strong. He’s been through a lot in the 40 years he’s been alive and he’s strong enough to make it.”
Nicholas’ last wish was to watch Joshua graduate. So the teen and a handful of friends put on their graduation caps and gowns for an early high school graduation ceremony in front of family and friends held at the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church.

“They all want to support me as their friend.”
The hospice workers, particularly Jamie Hester, and others pulled the event together in just three days. Nicholas had no idea.

“I just wanted to see my son graduate high school.”
All the pomp and circumstance was perfect and Nicholas soaked it up. As tears streamed down his face, he sat with his wife Kami and watched Joshua graduate.

Nicholas said the last two years have been unbearably rough for Joshua, too, not just for him. Joshua was playing school football when Nicholas received his diagnosis.

The young man had to quit the team and take a job to help pay the bills. He has helped his mom care for Nicholas, too.
Watch this incredible surprise unfold in the video below. It will truly warm your heart!



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