A High School Grad Gets Her Wish: Mom is There for the Diploma Ceremony

Skyler smiles with her mother, sister and father in her mother's inpatient hospice room

With diploma in hand, Skyler Rupnow poses for a family photo with her father and sister at mom’s bedside.

06/24/2019

Skyler Rupnow’s May 24 graduation from Richland High School in Fort Worth, Texas, had all the elements of a traditional diploma-granting ceremony: pomp, circumstance, two proud parents and an admiring older sister.

“These moments mean so much to our families when they are going through vulnerable seasons in their life.”

What was different was the setting.

The graduation took place in April Rupnow’s patient room at the VITAS Inpatient Hospice Unit (IPU) at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center so that she could witness her younger daughter’s graduation milestone.

VITAS Social Worker Kennedy Thomas said the idea for the IPU graduation was planted during the family’s initial hospice assessment.

A Milestone Not to Be Missed

April’s husband, Cliff, mentioned that Skyler was sad “because she felt cheated…her mom had missed her prom, was going to miss her high school graduation and wouldn’t be able to see her off to college.”

April wears her cap and gown to pose for a photo with Kennedy

When April couldn’t attend her daughter’s high school graduation, VITAS Social Worker Kennedy Thomas helped bring the ceremony to her.

Kennedy suggested bringing graduation festivities to the IPU so that April could watch her cap-and-gowned daughter receive her diploma from Richland High Principal Carla Saddler Rix.

Learn More: The 4 Levels of Hospice Care

“We pulled graduation music off of YouTube for Skyler to walk into her mom’s room, I gave her a brief commencement speech and then the principal presented her with a diploma,” Kennedy says. “It was a really emotional, somber-but-celebratory event…a really special moment because they didn’t think it was something that was ever going to happen.”

After Skyler was an official high school graduate, she stood next to her mother’s bed and posed with her older sister, Atriana, and her father for a family photo. 

April passed away 10 days later.

“It is truly an honor to have the capacity to facilitate and celebrate such special moments with families,” Kennedy says. “These moments mean so much to our families when they are going through vulnerable seasons in their life. The Rupnow family was surrounded by so much love and the event was beautiful.”

Find out if hospice care could help your loved one.

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