John and Josephine Franklin and youngest son Thomas, posed for photographs along with hundreds of other happy families celebrating graduation day at the University of Limerick.
However, the joy felt by the Franklins was contained by a sadness for their eldest son Denis, 35.
A rising GAA star, Denis was savagely attacked while on a night out in Cork City 12 years ago.
However, while his body survived the vicious assault, his mind did not.
According to his heartbroken family, the light in Denis’s vibrant life was stubbed out with multiple blows and kicks to his head on the night of Feb 17, 2001.
Left in a permanent vegetative state, unable to speak or hear, Denis no longer resembles the fit and talented Limerick hurler who had represented his county at minor level.
Reflecting on the cards fate had dealt his son, John Franklin revealed that the family have prayed the rosary by Denis’s bedside every night of the 12 and a half years since the tragedy befell the family.
“We find the power of prayer great,” said John. “We say the rosary every night for him and have done since it happened
“The future is very bleak. Only the hand of God can bring him back to us now.”
In May 2004, two men were convicted for the attack.
Painter Ian Cronin was given a four-year jail for assault in what the court heard was a row over hurling, while electrician William St Leger, 20, received a nine-month sentence for violent disorder.
The attack, the court had heard, occurred after two groups began engaging in friendly banter about opposing hurling counties. However, it eventually led to a vicious attack.
Yesterday in UL, John Franklin somehow managed to keep the bright side out.
He and Josie held Thomas tightly as they posed for his graduating photograph yesterday.
Thomas, 22, is now around the same age as his brother was when he was attacked in 2001, and is embarking on a career as a PE teacher.
“Denis is in Milford Nursing Home now,” said Thomas. “We transferred him a few years ago from hospital in Cork. He’s in good physical health despite it all.
“But he’s still in the same condition.
“He’s alert, can hear sounds, but he can’t see or speak. Everything is done for him.”