Mother of a Teen Who Vowed to Graduate High School Is Given His Diploma Weeks After He Dies From COVID-19

He was often in pain, especially after physical therapy, but Isaiah Mays was true to his goals until the very end.

Isaiah Mays did not live to see the high school diploma he worked so hard to earn, but his mother, Machelle Mays, proudly accepted it on the 19-year-old's behalf. “I really don't even have the words to express how I feel about, or how I felt when I opened his diploma, and I saw Isaiah Luke Mays,” Machelle Mays told Inside Edition Digital.

“That he had accomplished and completed, and he received this diploma. My heart is just overflowing with just so many feelings, emotions. He would light up a room. He had a beautiful smile.”

Isaiah was set on graduating, despite being a patient at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indiana while being treated for COVID-19. Lindsay DeWilde, a teacher at Riley Children’s Hospital, helped Isaiah study.

“He told me he had two credits that he needed to complete to be able to graduate high school,” she said. “He said to me, ‘This is my goal. I would like to receive my high school diploma.’ And I said, ‘Let's do it.’”

“There were days that, when I walked in, I could tell he did not feel good at all. I would say, ‘Buddy, why don't we just... I'll come back tomorrow. We'll take today off.’ And he would say, ‘Lindsay, sit down, we're doing school.’”

He was often in pain, especially after physical therapy, but Isaiah was true to his goals until the very end. Even on the day Isaiah passed away, they worked on school, Lindsay said.

Not only did Isaiah and Lindsay bond, but Lindsay and Machelle also created a special relationship, too. Watching Machelle with her three children made her want parenting tips, but it was the gift of a t-shirt that truly made Lindsay feel cherished, she said. 

"We had a good connection. We worked so well together,” Linsday said. “And he meant so much to me, but you don't always realize how much you mean to someone else unless they do something like that, and so I think that is something that means more to me than anything. So it's just such a special thing to have with me still.”

“And you know what, Isaiah, he did love you," Machelle told Lindsay. "He felt such a strong connection with you. He was very thankful for you. He was thankful for your time. He was thankful for your patience with him. And we would talk about that.”

To say thank you to Lindsay, Machelle asked the school to print off an extra copy of Isaiah's diploma for her so she could forever remember him.

Isaiah’s diploma means so much, and yet in her sadness, Machelle chooses to find the good. "There's the part that just, of course, would have loved for him to hold it himself because he worked so hard," she said. "But since that's not the case, I am so thankful for you, thankful for Lindsay, thankful for the school system that worked with him to help him accomplish just exactly what he wanted to accomplish in life."

Leaning on her faith is what’s getting Machelle through the grief of losing her middle child. On the day Isaiah passed away, Machelle said she returned to the same prayer she sent when Isaiah had surgery as a baby.

“When he was three weeks old, I said, ‘Father, thank you, but if he is to return back to you, I ask that you allow me the strength to endure it,'” she said.

“I came back to that same prayer on that night that I left my Isaiah. I said, ‘Now, Father, here I am again with that same prayer to you. Allow me the strength to endure my life, my journey, here without my Isaiah. Give me that strength.’”

And although Machelle Mays has endured so much, she’s hopeful. “He's not suffering anymore. And all the things, all the challenges that he's had to face over his life, all the struggles, and even in his accomplishments, but still dealing with the fact that he would be down sometimes, and I would see it, and it would break my heart. But not anymore. So I'm full of joy.”

Related Stories