Life is composed of milestones. Births, first steps, riding a bike without training wheels, and graduating from high school all define a person’s individual existence — and so does death.
It’s a truth that Julie Northcott knows all too well. The Tennesseean mother lost her daughter to Lynch Syndrome in 2010 at the tender age of 20.
Now Northcott has been diagnosed with the exact same disorder. A genetic condition, Lynch Syndrome is linked with a particularly nasty group of cancers.
It primarily leads to colorectal cancer, but it has also been known to cause cancers of the skin, bladder, stomach, small intestine, and brain. Women with the condition also tend to get ovarian and uterine lining cancers.
Sadly, doctors told Northcott that she had a terminal case of the disease, and the suffering mother wanted only one thing before she passed into eternity: She wanted to see her son, Dalton Jackson, graduate from high school.
Two issues stood in her way. First, Jackson was studying in Knoxville, some 200 miles away from where she was receiving treatment at Memphis’ Baptist Hospital East.
Second, Jackson still had a month to go before graduation — and doctors were only giving Northcott days to live. That was when a group of friends and school officials decided to band together to make a dying woman’s last wish come true.
On May 5, hospital staff wheeled Northcott’s bed into the Baptist East’s chapel. There she found her son and 20 classmates waiting, along with Jackson’s principal, Suzanne Keefe.
Right there and then, Keefe presided over the presentation of Jackson’s diploma. After handing it to him, she said, “As you can see, this is a very special class, and this is a very special young man.”
Northcott sat up in her hospital bed at that point and began singing to everyone in the room. Jackson’s friends then covered him with hugs.
Death is an enemy, no doubt about it. But thanks to the kindness of a small group, one woman’s final days have just become a little bit sweeter.
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