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.
17 years old, I remember my mama just hugging me and crying. She told me my dad passed away. Less than three months away from getting my HS diploma. I walked across that stage with my head held high, knowing that though he wasn’t physically there… he was still watching. 19 years old, roughly 2AM. After DAYS of not sleeping and having to watch my mom suffer. I was alone at hospice with her, watched her take her last breath… This was TEN days after getting my Associates Degree. My mom had stage 4 cervical cancer and she fought her BEST fight. Seems like weeks, months even years passed by and it didn’t seem real that my parents were gone. Sometimes, it still doesn’t. This picture is apart of my testimony. When my mom passed, I took time off from school and completely cancelled the idea of going back. I felt so numb and detached from the world. Time kept passing and I knew I had to go back. 25 years old… As long as it took to FINALLY get this Bachelors Degree, I STILL did it. 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. I STILL did it. One thing I can say is, I’ve grown. My strength overshadows my weakness. I am resilient and powerful. Despite loss, I can and always will overcome adversity. I know that as long as I lean on God’s arm for understanding and guidance, he will lead me in the right direction. My circumstances are far from the best, but I have found ways to make the best of what I have & thank God in the process. I am sharing this to inspire and encourage someone else. No matter WHAT you go through, no matter who you lose… you have to keep fighting. Stay focused and pray every single day, even when things are going well. Losing two people as important as your parents will change you & make you want to give up. 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. It is my greatest honor to annnounce that May 11th, I will be walking across that stage & though I may cry, I know they’re smiling.
A post shared by Sequoia Smith (@ms.cokes) on Apr 11, 2018 at 11:28am PDT
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.
A post shared by Sequoia Smith (@ms.cokes) on Apr 13, 2018 at 12:53pm PDT
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.
A post shared by Sequoia Smith (@ms.cokes) on Apr 4, 2018 at 6:53pm PDT
” 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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