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COVID-19 victim receives honorary degree from Colorado Mesa University

Cody Lyster, 21, was one of Colorado's youngest victims of the pandemic.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — The families of those who have lost loved ones to the virus deal with the pain every day -- that struggle is never more evident than when they celebrate some of life’s most memorable milestones.

A live-streamed graduation serves as a reminder of all this year has taken from us.

The commencement ceremony at Colorado Mesa University (CMU) in Grand Junction was supposed to be a celebration, but COVID-19 stole much of that.

"It’s difficult not watching your child get it himself," said Kevin Lyster. "But, the honor that Mesa bestowed on Cody and our family was phenomenal."

Cody Lyster was just 21. A baseball player, a brother and a son to Kevin and Lea Ann. He passed away earlier this year, one of the youngest victims of the pandemic in Colorado.

His goal had always been to get a college degree. Eight months after Cody died, that dream came true. Colorado Mesa University gave him an honorary degree, which his family accepted on his behalf in Grand Junction Friday. 

"You know, it was hard because you see all these other kids who are able to walk the stage and collect a diploma and celebrate with their families," said Kevin Lyster. "He would have been the first in our family to obtain a college degree. He was first generation to actually go to college."

On a day normally reserved for festivities, there was someone missing who had earned his right to walk across the stage. 

"I guess the word I would use would be bittersweet," said Lea Ann Lyster, Cody's mother. "I don’t think he was looking down. I think he was right there with us. I think he was right there with us."

A scholarship was also established in Cody’s name at CMU after he passed away with the goal of ensuring more students have the opportunity to go to college, just like Cody did.