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New Mexico State University Grants Father’s Dying Wish

For 22-year-old Javier Lujan this weekend marks a major milestone in his life: college graduation.

Lujan will be the first one in his family to graduate from a university, and it’s something everyone in his family is proud of. Lujan said getting that diploma Saturday from New Mexico State University has been a dream years in the making.

But one more thing would make the day just perfect: having his father there to see him walk across the stage.

His father, 62-year-old Frank Lujan, was diagnosed with liver cancer in January. Since then, his health rapidly deteriorated, landing him in the hospital last month.

What should have been an exciting time for Javier turned into weeks of worrying about his father’s health and wondering if he’d see him graduate.

Victoria Harvell, Javier’s older sister, noticed her brother’s concerns as he asked if his father would be coherent enough to see him graduate. She decided to try her best to make sure Frank would see his son get that hard-earned diploma.

Harvell contacted NMSU employees and told them about her family’s situation. Luckily, NMSU responded quickly. That same day the university sent Beth Pollack, associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, and Gregory Fant, associate vice president and deputy provost for the university, to Frank’s hospital room at Memorial Medical Center for an impromptu graduation ceremony.

Decked in his full cap and gown regalia, Javier surprised his father by walking into the room.

“When I walked in, he was more awake than he’s been in the last two weeks and he was so proud. It was awesome. It what’s I wanted. That’s what I’ve worked for,” Javier told ABC-7.

To everyone’s astonishment, Frank was alert and completely coherent for the first time in weeks to hug, kiss and congratulate his son. Frank pumped his fist in the air and told his son how proud he was.

“He said that he was really proud and all of this was because of my hard work and I made him a very proud man. That’s what he told me,” Javier said.

The NMSU officials said the traditional commencement words and presented Javier with a criminal justice certificate after he moved his tassel from right to left. Many family members wiped tears from their eyes as Javier hugged his father again and showed him his certificate.

Javier told ABC-7 it was a bittersweet moment.

“I love the fact that he saw me, and I know he’s extremely proud of me. It doesn’t make it better, doesn’t make it easier. In fact, it still really, really sucks because he was supposed to be there and its just really difficult,” Javier said.

“My dad was waiting for May 12. He was waiting for it, and he didn’t make it,” Harvell said with tears in her eyes.

A few days later, Frank Lujan passed away. Harvell and Javier said they’re glad their father was able to witness this, but it’s upsetting he will miss Javier walking across that stage with the rest of his classmates.

Harvell said she felt Frank was waiting to see Javier graduate before finally letting go.

Javier said when he walks across that stage on Saturday, it will be sad not to see his father’s face in the audience, but at least Frank was able to see him in his cap and gown, which is all he really wanted.

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