The strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” floated through the room.
The principal was the first to walk down the hall.
Then came high school senior Mackenzie Sherman, who walked Thursday in her pink sneakers and blue Olathe North graduation gown to the side of her mother’s hospice bed, knowing that her 46-year-old mom would not likely be alive to see Olathe North’s May 21 graduation day.
“Yesterday they put my Mom in hospice and gave her only a few days to live,” Sherman, known as Kenzie, posted on her Facebook page Thursday, along with a video. By Friday, the video had received close to 20,000 views.
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“Today (Thursday), my principal and all my teachers came to the hospice house to do a graduation ceremony for my Mom since she will not be alive for my actual graduation.… I know how proud my Mom is of me. She doesn’t have much time left here on earth, but she will forever be in my heart.”
Principal Jason Herman handed Sherman her diploma. There were flowers and balloons. They ate cake with white frosting and blue piping that read “Congrats Mackenzie Rene, Class 2017.” The idea for the impromptu ceremony came from Sherman’s teachers after the 18-year-old told her that she would be missing school, with her mother in hospice. Word reached the principal.
Immediately, in one day, a graduation was put together.
“It’s my community. It’s my kids. That’s a milestone in life. Her mom absolutely needed to be part of it,” Herman said. “I was going to cancel everything I had to to have that experience for that family.”
In the video, Sherman walks to the right side of her mother’s bed, takes a seat, and clasps her mother’s hand. Stacie Sherman was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in 2012.
“It went into remission, and she was fine for a while,” Mackenzie Sherman said in an interview Friday. Her tone was upbeat, but she was tired. “It’s been a busy day,” she said.
She explained that her mom’s breast cancer recurred in 2014, but at the more severe Stage 4, and it was considered terminal. The family on Sunday learned that the cancer had spread to her spine and her brain, and she was admitted Wednesday to St. Luke’s Hospice House, 3516 Summit St.
By Friday, Stacie Sherman was unable to talk. But the day before, she could.
“Yesterday,” Mackenzie Sherman shared, “the last two things she told me was, ‘I’m so proud of you’ and ‘I love you so much.’ ”
Sherman’s teachers joined her at the hospice. Her family was there, of course: her dad, Robert Sherman; her sister, Madison, 14; and brothers Noah and Joshua, 15 and 11. Next year, Mackenzie Sherman plans to attend Johnson County Community College and, afterward, perhaps enter a dental hygiene program.
At her mother’s bedside, she told her mother that she loved her and that it was OK, she was seeing her daughter graduate high school.
Sherman’s words caught in her throat in talking of her love for her mother.
“She is probably one of the strongest people I have ever met in my entire life,” Sherman said. “She has been there for all four of her kids. She fought for five years. Through all of that, she was able to support all of us. She’s done more than I ever thought she could. I am glad she is not in pain right now. And she’s comfortable and in a good place, and she is surrounded by the people she loves.”