KELLER -- “Pomp and Circumstance” played for just one student Friday at Keller Central High School.
But the circumstance that brought such honor to Kareem Gibbs will likely take his life before his classmates cross the stage next year.
"He has exemplified character, honor, and service throughout his short time at Central High School," Principal David Hinson told the standing-room-only crowd jammed into the auditorium.
Kareem Gibbs came to Keller Central from Atlanta only a year ago. A few months later, the cancer returned.
It's not the commencement speech anyone would choose to write.
"I come to school with a smile on my face. I face obstacles with a smile on my face,” Kareem told his classmates and teachers. “I try to make the most out of everything I do in life."
Teachers, administrators, fellow students, and especially his mom, wanted to see him cross the stage in cap and gown. So they made it happen.
Kareem and his mom made sure they were back from chemo treatment -- in Atlanta.
They drive there every week; 12 hours there, 12 hours back.
Hours in a hospital.
Every one of them a gift.
"I might not be here next week,” Kareem grins, “but I can guarantee you I'll be here tomorrow. And we can make the most out of it."
Kareem is in a clinical trial he knows can't save him, but might help future patients. His oncologist hopes it will extend his life by a few months.
"But I like to look at it as we're extending his life until the next science comes along," said Kareem’s mother, Rakiya Muhammad.
She understands people being drawn to her son’s story. But more than that, they are drawn to her son.
Students nominated Kareem for homecoming king.
"I'm always going to think about him when I go through a rough time,” said senior Cameron Zedik. “He's an inspiration for everyone at this school."
Seniors stood and sang their alma mater. Kareem photographed them from the stage.
Graduation reminds them of what could have been, and what still can be. Kareem Gibbs reminds them of everything in between.
“Life is a story,” he said from the podium. “However you write it is the way it happens.
“I love to smile,” he told them.
He switched the tassel on his cap, then tossed it into the cheering crowd.
Ironically, the cancer is in his heart.