BLANCHARD, Okla. (KFOR) – A Blanchard High School senior graduated Tuesday morning at the foot of his mother’s hospital bed in Southwest Medical Center a day before she passed away.
Caleb Woodrum is set to graduate from high school in May, but more than anything, he wanted his mom to be a part of this milestone accomplishment.
However, his mom, Stacey, was diagnosed with congestive heart failure 10 years ago which steadily got worse over time.
“The hospital actually contacted me and they said, ‘Listen, things are getting bad and the only thing that she wants is to see her youngest son graduate.’ So I told them, I said, ‘What do I need to do? Let’s get this going,'” said Woodrum’s sister-in-law, Cara Harris.
Within 24 hours, a make-shift graduation ceremony was put together in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
As the family arrived for the ceremony, Harris and Woodrum said they were shocked.
“We showed up and literally they had food, they had decorations. They went above and beyond. Like we were not expecting that at all,” said Harris. “It was amazing. I was blessed beyond measures.”
“A lot of people were supporting me. My school, the Southwest medical staff, but especially my family. That was a moment that really made me proud. I didn’t expect the hospital to go above and beyond, but it was truly amazing what they did, and especially my principal, Mr. Jackson,” said Woodrum.
Harris told KFOR their family had an overwhelming amount of support from everyone involved.
Blanchard High School Principal, Greg Jackson, was there to congratulate Woodrum and hand him his diploma.
Jackson said he wasn’t sure what to expect when asked to be a part of the ceremony.
“I just thought, all right, I grabbed, you know, cap and gown and a tassel and the diploma and got there and, you know, as soon as I walked into the ICU, I thought, you know, wow because nurses decorated it, they even had music playing. So when Caleb was walking down to the room, you know, it was like graduation,” explained Jackson.
Jackson said it was a whirlwind of emotions, even for him.
He remembers Stacey struggling with every breath, but also taking in each moment that came with Woodrum.
In Jackson’s 43 years in education, he said this was a first for him, but he’d do it all over again if it meant giving a student that opportunity of a lifetime.
Sadly, Stacey passed away a day later and on her birthday.
“She got to the point where she pulled me aside and she said, ‘I’m tired.’ And I said, ‘It’s okay. It’s okay to be tired.’ She made the choice to take her oxygen off, so she made that decision and she was ready. She was ready to go,” added Harris.
“You just think, thank God that we got to do it, you know?,” said Jackson. “Something I’ll never forget for sure.”
Woodrum is happy he was able to share that moment, but said he wishes he could’ve share more milestones with her.
“I have a really good relationship with her. I took care of her. She was on oxygen, so I had to fill her bottles regularly and stuff like that. Made sure when she needed to go to the doctors, she had a ride to the doctors and stuff like that,” said Woodrum. “It was probably one of the greatest moments I’ve actually ever had. Like, she did want to see me graduate. She did want to see me go to college. Unfortunately, she won’t have the chance to do that. But she got to see me graduate high school, which I know is one of the biggest accomplishments for me and her.”
Moving forward, he said he will continue to be strong for his mom and will work hard to not disappoint her.
Woodrum said he’ll also continue carrying the memory of his mom every step of the way, even at graduation.
“I’m actually going to walk across the stage with her in my arms, with her ashes,” said Woodrum.
The family is also planning a memorial for Stacey on April 16th, the same day as Woodrum’s 19th birthday.
Woodrum said he wants the memorial to happen on his birthday since his mom passed away on her birthday.
“It’s a little kick in the butt to her,” said Woodrum. He added it’s something his mom would laugh at.
The family has started a GoFundMe to raise funds for Stacey’s memorial as well as expenses to cover Woodrum’s senior prom.
Woodrum will walk the graduation stage May 15 at 7 p.m.