On the eve of her 92nd birthday, Julia Jarman received a special gift from her grandson: He escorted her to his high school prom.
On Saturday evening, Stephen Vigil, a junior at Stafford High School, gently took his grandma’s arm and slowly led her toward the doors of Riverside Center off U.S. 17.
As they entered the building, silence enveloped the lobby. Principal Joe Lewis met them with a silver crown and sash for Jarman. He also reserved a special table for them.
There was not a dry eye to be seen—most of all from Stephen.
The 17-year-old decided to ask his grandma to be his prom date after learning of her pancreatic cancer diagnosis earlier this year. Jarman’s doctors expect she will live only a few more months.
Stephen’s mom, Pam Vigil, said he was devastated by the news. The two have always been close and Jarman fondly refers to her grandson as “my boy.”
But Stephen is determined to spend their last few months together making memories. They started with a weeklong trip to Florida through the Dream Foundation, which grants dreams for terminally-ill adults in the U.S.
Then, on Mother’s Day weekend, Stephen took Jarman out for lunch and to visit the graves of several family members at Arlington National Cemetery.
But the event he had been looking forward to most was the prom. Jarman never attended her proms, so her grandson was determined to give her an evening to remember.
“My first prom is with my special grandson,” Jarman said.
Stephen said the school administration and teachers were supportive of the idea. After explaining the story to the principal, Stephen said Lewis gave him approval without hesitation. Usually, students cannot bring guests who are older than 20.
“I’m just so happy we could do this for her and the family,” Lewis said.
Jarman was thrilled to attend the prom with her grandson. She bought a blue dress to match her grandson’s pale blue vest and bow-tie. She also wore a wrist corsage of red roses.
Before the big event, the two went to Hair Cuttery at Eagle Village to get their hair cut and styled. Stephen was surprised when he went to pay and they said it was on the house.
After capturing the magic of the evening at a photography session in downtown Fredericksburg, the same thing happened at dinner at Spencer Devon Brewing, where the manager paid for their meals.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Stephen said.
Vigil said her son is no stranger to loss. In 2008, his father died after having a stroke. Stephen was only 8 years old. He knows that once his grandmother passes, he will be forced to deal with the grief of her death, as well as the flood of memories of his father.
But Vigil said her son is resilient and keeps himself busy. When Stephen is not in school, he is playing football or managing behind-the-scenes operations for the basketball team as the manager. He works at a local fast-food restaurant and immerses himself in church activities.
He also spends every free moment with his grandma. Vigil said Stephen’s devotion is evident—he keeps track of her medication when out, makes sure to carry a blanket with him in case she gets cold and, through it all, never loses his positive attitude and sense of humor.
“He is very protective of his grandma,” Vigil said. “Not many 17-year-olds are like that.”
While Jarman may be 92, her memory is still sharp, and she has never lost her fun and playful demeanor, Stephen said. He recalled how he used to visit her when she lived on a nearly 60-acre property in Spotsylvania County. Stephen always tried to sit in her seat—a faded blue recliner—but grandma would have none of it.
Stephen said he treasures the time he has spent with his grandmother.
“She doesn’t have much time left, so I didn’t even have to think about the decision to take her to prom. I’m so glad we’ll both have these memories.”