What should have been the best day of Alex Ward’s young life suddenly and unexpectedly became one of the worst. Just one hour before his high school graduation in Glendale, Arizona, his father passed away while the rest of the family was out grabbing a pre-graduation lunch.
“While we were gone my grandparents found him not breathing for not too long,” said Alex told KSAZ-TV in Phoenix. “It was supposed to be the best night of my life.”
Grief-stricken and needing to be with his family, Alex of course could not attend the graduation ceremony at Ironwood High School, where he was set to receive his diploma with honors before moving on Colorado University in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
It seemed like all his years of work were about to pay off, but now everything looked bleak.
And then, the next day, he got a phone call from a teacher. It was more than a condolence call. The teacher wanted to make sure Alex received the diploma that represented the successful completion of this crucial part of his education, not to mention of this stage of life. The high school years somehow just don’t seem finished without that diploma in hand.
When Alex returned to Ironwood school on May 15 to pick up that important piece of paper, he had no idea what was waiting for him — and how it would lift him up from the lowest moment of his life.
“I was expecting a few friends, a few of my teachers just to give me my diploma since I’ve worked four years for it, and I walked in and there were 200 people in there, school board, governing board, everything,” Alex recalled.
He wasn’t just being handed a slip of paper with a handshake and a congratulations. The school and a couple hundred of his classmates were re-staging the entire graduation, just for Alex.
“The only word I can use to describe it was awe,” he said. “I don’t think words can even describe how grateful I am. I did not expect that many people to show up, frankly, because it’s the day after graduation. They were all done with high school, not a single one of them had to come back and over 200 people showed up. I want them to be recognized for what they did.”
Alex said that the special graduation is a moment that he’ll not only remember for life, but one that gives him a renewed outlook.
“It’s been the two most conflicting emotions I’ve ever had,” said Alex Ward. “I have the grief of my dad dying, but I had such a display from friends and family it really brings faith to humanity, it really does.”