Dying mother holds on for last few hours to see her daughter’s graduation

Longtime nurse Elizabeth De Leon's dying wish was threatened when doctors updated her with the news that she only had days to live, but her son called the school and they did everything they could to make the moment happen
June 30, 2018 10:40 am Last Updated: June 30, 2018 10:40 am

Everyone has at least one thing they’d like to see or experience in life before they die. Elizabeth De Leon, a longtime nurse, wanted to see her daughter graduate high school.

But as her health took a turn for the worse, it didn’t seem possible, and the chances of De Leon’s dying wish being fulfilled looked slim.

For three years, Elizabeth De Leon battled colon cancer.

Posted by Richie Pagan on Saturday, May 26, 2018

Towards the end of her daughter’s senior year of high school, Elizabeth’s health started to go downhill. She told her daughter Cassidy De Leon that she wanted to live long enough to see her graduate Washingtonville High School in Washingtonville, New York.

Graduation was on June 21, and doctors had given the 51-year-old woman only a few days to live.

“I would always tell her I won’t get my cap and gown until graduation,” Cassidy told CBS 2.

In May 2018, Elizabeth was told she had days to live.

Posted by Cassidy De Leon on Monday, May 28, 2018

While Cassidy and her older brother, Richard Pagan, dealt with the jarring news, Pagan thought of a brilliant idea.

“I told my mom to hold on just a little bit longer,” Pagan told PEOPLE. “I told her I had one more surprise.”

The 33-year-old contacted his little sister’s principal and asked if he’d be willing to hold a private graduation ceremony before Elizabeth passed away. He agreed.

Before she died, her oldest son had a surprise for her.

Elizabeth’s last wish was to see her daughter Cassidy graduate. This is so beautiful the school was able to bring the graduation to the hospital. Cassidy, I’m so proud of you and i know you’re going on to do big things. Please reach out if you ever need anything. My thoughts and prayers are with you and the whole family. I love you guys.

Posted by Michael Anthony Pagán on Monday, May 28, 2018

On May 28, not long after Elizabeth was admitted to Vassar Brothers Medical Center for complications due to cancer, she got to see her daughter graduate.

Cassidy’s principal, Brian Connolly, showed up to the hospital with the high school senior’s graduation cap, gown, and her diploma.

Elizabeth’s family noted that in the days leading up to the ceremony the mother of two was not responsive, but when Cassidy walked in the room in her cap and gown, she smiled.

“During the ceremony, she actually moved her head and cracked a little smile when she saw Cassidy,” Pagan said. “She did not close her eyes after that, and though she couldn’t really talk, we knew she was trying to tell Cassidy that she was proud of her.”

Elizabeth passed away hours after the private graduation ceremony.

Her children were happy they could fulfill their mother’s dying wish and though they dreaded it, they told her it was OK to let go.

“She was happy, and me and Cassidy told her ‘Mom, it’s okay. You can go now,'” Pagan told CBS 2.

The following morning, Elizabeth passed away.

“She is my best friend, my heart, and my world,” Cassidy wrote on a GoFundMe page set up to help cover Elizabeth’s funeral costs. “She was granted her last wish, which was to see me graduate.”