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Teen Has Early Graduation Ceremony at His Mom's Hospice Facility, Days Before Her Death


When this Mississippi teen was given the news that his mom would pass away only days before his high school graduation, his community made sure she was there to witness his rite of passage  even if that meant bringing the graduation to her.

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Dakota Keenan, 18, told InsideEdition.com that he was given the heartbreaking news as he got home from his last high school baseball game.

"They said she had 24 hours," he recalled his grandmother telling him.

He told InsideEdition.com that his mom, Colleen Keenan, was a top chef at a local steak house despite being a vegetarian, before she was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2009.

Though she had successfully beaten the cancer and been declared four years cancer-free, chemotherapy and radiation had taken a toll on her body, and she was eventually admitted to the North Delta Hospice in Southaven.

She was only weeks away from watching her oldest son, Dakota, graduate from the Southaven High School, but he said, "I knew she wasn't going to be able to make it."

So, the school suggested an early graduation, where Dakota could be handed his diploma while he wore a cap and gown right by his mom's hospital bed, so she could bare witness to one final milestone in her son's life before she passed.

Later that week, school officials and close family members helped wheel 42-year-old Colleen Keenan out of her hospice room and into a reception area, where Principal Shane Jones helped recreate what Dakota's official ceremony later that month would look like, complete with "Pomp and Circumstance," and a graduation cake to top it all off.

"I'm glad to give them that moment together," Jones told InsideEdition.com, adding that the school was more than happy to go out of their way for Dakota, who is an integral part of the school's community as well as a honor student with a 4.0 GPA.

"When she saw him in the cap and gown, she had this look on her face," his teacher, Marty Parks, said.

"She wasn't all the way there, but when she looked at me, it was the same smile she'd always given me," Dakota told InsideEdition.com.

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Even though Colleen Keenan died two weeks before her son's official commencement ceremony earlier last week, Dakota said he felt his mom with him as he walked across the stage with her rosary beads in hand.

And when he begins college at the University of Mississippi this fall, its no doubt that his mom's memory will follow him there, too.

Watch: School Organizes Early Graduation So Student's Terminal Father Could Attend