Dressed in his Sunday best, a young man with special needs slowly approached a burial plot, honing in on one headstone in particular. As he solemnly spoke toward the grave, he uttered three heartwrenching words — “I did it.”
Since his birth, Paul Marshall Jr has faced multiple medical and emotional challenges. Diagnosed with Down Syndrome and a handful of serious medical conditions from the very beginning, he’s had to work far harder than the average person to accomplish simple feats, KSLA reports.
“Paul Jr. was born with one functioning kidney and a defective heart,” explained Paul’s father, Paul Sr.
Despite overcoming every hindrance and surpassing all expectations, Paul Jr was confronted with hardship that no child should ever have to suffer. At the age of only 9, his mother’s battle with cancer took a grim turn. All LaTanya Marshall wanted was to see her son graduate. Sadly, her wish wouldn’t come true.
“She always wanted the best for Paul Jr,” said Paul Sr. “Her last dying words were, ‘I just want to see Paul Jr graduate.’”
Against all odds, Paul Jr was determined to fulfill his mother’s hope for his future, even if she couldn’t be around to watch it unfold. So, when the sharply dressed young man approached her grave with a bouquet of flowers in his hand, he uttered the three words he had been waiting to tell his late mother for nearly a decade.
“Mommy, I have something to say,” he begins. “I did it. I did it. I graduate today.”
Later that day, Paul Jr literally danced his way across Haughton High School’s football field to accept his diploma. Although his mother couldn’t be in the stands cheering him on, he knew she would have been overjoyed with his accomplishment. “I know you’re so proud of me and happy, and I love you so much,” he said, delivering a kiss from his hand to her headstone before heading off to his graduation ceremony.
Paul Jr hadn’t been able to contain his joy as he gleefully shuffled across the field with his classmates to receive his certificate. Leaving his school with something to remember him by, he busted out some impromptu moves in his cap and gown.
“I’m just happy when they called my name,” said Paul Jr. “I just made it up,” he explained about his celebratory dance on the way to picking up his diploma.
Of course, Paul Jr said he’ll miss his classmates, but he decided to move on to bigger and better things as he planned to attend college and graduate once more for good measure.
“I’ll miss high school, and I’m very sad about it,” admitted Paul Jr who says he’s planning to attend Bossier Parish Community College.
Although Paul Jr has developmental disabilities, his relatives explained that he is the lifeblood of the entire family.
“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,” smiled Paul Sr.
“He’s spiritually grown me,” says Paul Jr’s stepmother, Lamico.
There were many obstacles standing in the way of Paul Jr graduating. Just months after receiving a new heart valve, he underwent surgery to receive a brand new kidney, courtesy of his father.
“We’ve learned how to endure,” explained Paul Sr, describing how their lives are changed daily by being a part of Paul Jr’s. “Paul Jr could be hospitalized for 5 days, and on the 6th day, he’s out and laughing.”
Despite his situation, Paul Marshall Jr has defied the odds to accomplish his dream of graduating. Undeniably, these hurdles have only made him stronger and more determined to conquer his goals.
We hope Paul Jr continues to spread his infectious zeal for life as he goes on to higher education and beyond. His story is not only heartwarming but inspiring to those who struggle to overcome life’s hardships with a fraction of the joy and gratitude he exhibits.