For families across the country, graduation is a special moment to come together and celebrate a milestone. But for Sequoia Smith, that can’t happen in the usual way. She’s celebrating her college graduation by paying homage to both her parents, who passed away before seeing her walk across the stage to get her diploma.
The 25-year-old is inspiring thousands of people with her story, which she shared on Instagram. She posed in her cap next to photos of her mom and dad, sharing her moment with them.
Smith’s dad passed away from sickle cell anemia not long before her high school graduation, according to CBS affiliate KFDM in Beaumont, Texas. Her mom died from cervical cancer two years later, shortly after Smith obtained an associate’s degree.
“Seems like weeks, months even years passed by and it didn’t seem real that my parents were gone. Sometimes, it still doesn’t, ” Smith wrote. “I felt so numb and detached from the world.”
After losing both her parents at the age of 19, Smith said she “canceled the idea” of finishing her education. But as time went on, she knew she had to go back and finish what she started.
Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle, Smith says, “I honestly didn’t anticipate for this to happen. I wanted my post to get to someone who has experienced what I have to enlighten them. … It just blew up. The amount of messages and comments I’m getting from so many incredible people is well worth me sharing.”
On May 11, she will be receiving her bachelor’s degree in public health from Lamar University. Her major and her planned career are both intended to honor her parents.
She wrote that it wasn’t easy without a support system to help her through the journey. “Not having anyone to call or talk to at times. Having to work ridiculous hours to make sure I had bare necessities. Keeping a smile on my face to keep from crying,” Smith wrote.
But she did it . And over 30,000 people are applauding her strength. Her post has gone viral and has garnered over 2,200 comments at the time of this story.
” If this isn’t the classic example of perseverance then I don’t know what is….you have done what would be impossible to most. I have so much empathy for you girl, I lost my dad at 23, but 2 parents by the time you’re 19?! And look at God, he’s with you helping you move mountains. I’m rooting for you,” wrote a commenter. “Congratulations. Sending you continued strength in your journey. This is the story of a true superhero,” added another.
Smith said she shared her story to inspire others to “keep fighting” no matter the circumstances.
“Stay focused and pray every single day, even when things are going well,” she wrote. She advises others who might be going through a situation like hers to “surround yourself with people who will uplift you! People who will pray for you without knowing the demons you’re battling. You will need them & whether you know it or not, they will need you.”
In just three short weeks, she’ll reach her goal, with her parents strongly in her mind: “I will be walking across that stage and though I may cry, I know they’re smiling,” she said.
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