Siblings who graduated from law and medical schools in the class of 2020 as first-generation college students brought their grandfather to tears when they visited him outside his nursing home in their caps and gowns.
Vana Ebrahimi graduated earlier this month with a law degree from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Her brother also graduated this month with a medical degree.
Ebrahimi and her brother were the first members of their family to go to college. Ebrahimi's parents came to the United States from Iran in 1992, following the footsteps of her grandparents who came in 1989. The families live minutes away from each other in Los Angeles and are very close not just in distance – but in heart.
"For my parents it was a crazy adjustment being in an all-new country," Ebrahimi said. "They worked seven days a week and did everything they could for us to get the best education. They sacrificed a lot of themselves for us to be on the right steps."
Months before Ebrahimi and her brother were set to graduate, their grandfather, 86-year-old Hayrik Abnous, fell and broke his hip and leg. He was in the hospital for a month and a half and then was moved to a nursing home, where he underwent physical therapy.
While in law school, Ebrahimi would accompany her grandmother to visit Abnous almost every day in the hospital and nursing home. Ebrahimi says her and her grandfather have a special relationship.
"My grandpa is everyone's rock," Ebrahimi said. "He's a happy-go-lucky guy. He always has a smile on. People tell me I'm always smiling and I tell them, 'That's my grandpa.' It's a special trait we got from him to be able to find the silver lining in everything."
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, Ebrahimi and her grandmother were unable to visit Abnous in his nursing home. In addition to that, like many college students around the world, both Ebrahimi and her brother's graduations were changed to virtual ceremonies.
Rather than being upset, Ebrahimi decided to do what her grandfather taught her and find the silver lining. Although the ceremony was canceled, she wanted to find a way to make their graduation day special for their family.
Ebrahimi and her brother decided to go to their grandfather's nursing home in their caps and gowns and have their own special graduation ceremony with him. One of nurses was able to wheel him to the window, where he saw his grandchildren for the first time as law and medical school graduates.
Abnous had his signature smile on when he saw his grandchildren. Then, overcome with emotion, he burst into tears.
"My grandpa is always smiling. To see him cry… I don't have words for that," Ebrahimi said.
She said it made her think, "'Wow. I really did make him proud.' I was so thankful for be able to share that with him."
For Ebrahimi, it was more than a moment of celebration for her and her brother. It was also a moment to thank their family for all that they'd done to get them there.
"Coming to this country was a tough time for them. It's nice to feel like we did our part and this is our thank you to them for doing theirs for us," Ebrahmim said. "You hear all the stories about their struggles and it's like we did this. Not just me and my brother…my parents, my grandparents, my family."