Dying mother's wish is granted
Education high on priority list for former Ripley County resident

Wanda English Burnett - Editor

From the time Sharon (Cox) Klusman was diagnosed with cancer, she had one hope - to see both of her small sons, Nicholas and Christopher, graduate from high school. That was in 1993. Recently, Seymour High School Principal Greg Prange upped the graduation date just a few weeks for her youngest son, Christopher, and in a private ceremony from her hospice bed, she was granted that wish
With family members surrounding Klusman, her son in cap and gown, Principal Prange, along with the school’s guidance counselor, Randy Fife, her final goal was reached as the diploma was granted in a full fledged ceremony.

Simply not knowing how much time his wife has left, Klusman’s husband Nick approached Prange to see if a ceremony could be arranged. He was totally impressed with the principal’s response. “You tell me when and where.” Prange told the family. He then proceeded to get the cap and gown, signed diploma and give a speech with remarks addressed to the graduating class of 2007, including Chris.
The private ceremony did much more than give a dying mother satisfaction. It renewed faith in people and brought forth a story of hope and love.

Klusman’s husband Nick told the Osgood Journal the battle of cancer had been long fought by his wife, who has endured a number of cancers, surgeries and treatments over the past 14 years. The Klusman’s make their home in Seymour and are both formerly from the Ripley County area.

Working as a nurse on the surgical floor for the Columbus Regional Hospital for 31 years, Klusman only gave up her position there when she could no longer perform her duties. Actually, when cancer invaded her spine and she couldn’t be ‘out on the floor’ she was transferred to desk duty. But, 18 months ago, she had to give up her work altogether. In December of 2006, she told her husband, “no more treatments - this is it.” She then resigned that cancer had won and she would peacefully and as near pain-free as possible, spend her final days at the Hospice of South Central Indiana Inpatient Facility in Columbus. There she is surrounded by a host of ‘hospital family’ and friends she has made during her career at the hospital.

“They are so good to her,” Nick praised the hospice team. They completed the graduation with pomp and circumstance including decorations and yes, even a graduation cake! The Klusmans thank the hospice facility at Columbus, saying they now know first hand of the important work that goes on there.
Although Klusman’s life is slowly shifting, Nick said she told him, “it’s like I’m slowly sailing away...to a different part of the world.” She has a strong faith that leaves her with no doubt she’s drifting toward a better place.

“She’s taught us so much,” Nick said softly close to tears, “to always be positive...she’s planted a seed.” He noted that while his wife expresses worries about her family, a mother’s natural instinct, “she’s not afraid of death. She’s ready.”

The Klusman's eldest son Nicholas, graduated from IUPUC and is employed there as a computer technician. “She’s real proud of him,” Nick noted.

Chris has been accepted at Northwestern University in Lima, Ohio, where he will pursue a career as an automotive and diesel mechanic. Unless a miracle of greater proportions than any doctor could perform transpires, his mother will not be at that graduation. But, one thing he knows, she’ll be there in spirit - in the hearts of all of her family.

Klusman has a sister, Pam Johnson and brother, Tony Cox, who live in the Osgood area and two sisters in Versailles - Carol Rudolph and Cheryl White. Her mother, ImaJean Cox Cook, lives in the Osgood area.

Sister-in-law, Marilyn Cox of Osgood, said, “She’s one of the best people I know. Even while she was going through everything, she still put her family first.” She explained that as a nurse who had seen numerous oncology patients, Klusman knew what was happening to her own body and would gently tell family members what to expect. “She is incredible.”

Klusman never lost sight of the importance of education as she struggled with cancers that would eventually invade her entire body and leave her immobile in a hospital bed. She graduated from Jac-Cen-Del High School in 1972 and went on to nursing school in Columbus. Her husband is a graduate of South Ripley.

Lying in her bed she can breathe a sigh of relief as she gazes at her youngest son’s photo as he proudly clutches the coveted diploma. Education is a top priority - even as Klusman slowly leaves this world.
At this time of year when Mother’s Day is celebrated followed by numerous graduation festivities, one mother’s love, a principal’s quick response and the love of family and friends, will be a story that will long be remembered.

Sharon (Cox) Klusman is surrounded by her family from left: son Christopher, who graduated from Seymour High School a few weeks early in her hospice room, husband Nick, and eldest son Nicholas, who has graduated from IUPUC. Klusman's dying wish was to see both of her sons graduate from high school. When her cancer progressed, Seymour High School Principal upped the graduation date for her youngest son last week.