Congratulations my Love

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Nearly four-years ago I was driving {read: violently jerking} down Garners Ferry Road in our little 1995 Honda Accord. It was about 7:45am, and morning school traffic was at its peak. It was only days before that Daniel had {patiently} given me my first stick-shift driving lesson in a quiet church parking lot near our beautiful apartment in Columbia, SC.

And no, I was nowhere near mastering that life skill.

Despite my inability to accelerate after having stopped on a hill, Daniel insisted I drive him to his first day of medical school classes so I could get used to driving in traffic, a route which included several steep inclines.

I hated him for making me drive that morning.

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I cried, stalled, panicked, and felt as if I would never be able to drive myself anywhere ever again. But we made it, and we arrived on time. I must not have been too frazzled because I asked to take a picture of him on his first day like he was a kindergartener or something. He must not have been feeling too compassionate after what he had just put me through because he refused and trotted off to class.

I snuck a picture of him from behind and sat there gazing after him so proud, excited, unsure, and thankful. After only 2 months of newlywed bliss {well minus that mono infection} our medical school adventure had just begun, and I had no idea what we had just gotten ourselves into.

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A few months in he brought me on campus and excitedly presented to me his portion of the cadaver dissection: the heart. It was so small, so strong, so still. What an incredible privilege this individual had given my husband when they decided to be a part of the education of these students in such an intimate and personal way! Looking at the heart you could see the valves perfectly. I placed my fingers in and touched the ventricles, atrium, and even the chordae tendineae. It was a moment in which creative Divinity was certain and finite mortality was keenly felt.

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As was my ritual I wrote our schedule on my white board at the beginning of each month. I remember that there was hardly a week in which a test was not on the calendar. Though Daniel’s days were spent in constant study he always made sure to take a break to help with dinner, eat with me, and either play a game, watch a show, or take a lazy evening walk.

Those walks were some of the most cherished times of our marriage. The neighborhood was perfect for them with their historic little houses, well-kept gardens, and majestic church buildings street after street. We often wish we could still head out the door and wind up in beautiful little Shandon.

Never once did he give me the impression that I was an obstacle to completing his priorities. I was his priority.

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Our first summer in medical school was spent walking through the second trimester of my first pregnancy and living around and working at an inner city clinic in Memphis, TN. There I watched my husband’s vision of health care sharpen and his patient-care abilities grow. He had a first-hand experience with real community health care, and I had a feeling this, this philosophy of living with the ones you serve, was the whole reason we were on this adventure in the first place. Though I was on bed rest for the majority of time we were there, we made lifelong friends through house church, the urban garden project, watching the World Cup games, sharing meals together, and, of course, the clinic. Every summer they welcome medical and dental students to come and be mentored in this setting. Already we’ve seen a number of our friends benefit from this experience. I definitely recommend it to any pursuing a career in medicine.

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Towards the end of his third semester we welcomed Aletheia into our home. Delivering by Caesarean the week before final exams made things quite intense those first few weeks, but we were armed with help. He, though exhausted and pressed for time, would snuggle our wee babe in the crook of his arm as he studied away on his laptop, teaching her all there is to know about pharmacology and pathology. To our surprise, he scored higher on those tests than any to date. So blessed.

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Fourth semester was a blur as I adjusted to parenthood, the increased demands of Daniel’s board studies, and prepared for a move to Greenville. But don’t worry, I don’t plan on dragging you through each of the 8 semesters of medical school. I couldn’t possibly write about it all.

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There were many low points; the nights when he couldn’t get enough sleep, the weeks we didn’t know how we would survive financially, the endless sickness of 3rd year, the feeling like I was a single parent for so many months, and the isolation extreme busyness brought.

But there were also many high points; when Daniel received his outstanding board scores, the outings and meals with our med school friends, the thrill of assisting with surgeries and newborn deliveries, the adventures of the residency interview trail, and Match Day.

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And of course there were countless moments of hilarity; the way Daniel practiced his human anatomy by telling me how sexy my this or that nerve, muscle, or bone was, the day he came home and declared that he had made some future wife very proud because of a skillful circumcision he had performed, and the story of a patient’s confusion regarding their diagnosis {fibroids of the uterus apparently comes across as “fireballs of the Eucharist” to some people, so beware}. You never knew medical school was so entertaining, did you?

Finally, after all the tests taken, the sleepless nights, the roads traveled, the moves made, the tears shed, the lessons learned, and the friends made, I found myself sitting next to my tiny folded up in a theatre style chair as she cheered “Yay Daddy, yay Daddy!” Clapping her hands, she congratulated her Daddy as he walked across the stage and assumed his title of doctor. My heart couldn’t really take it all in.

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We made it. It was as bumpy a ride as that first drive to medical school, all stops and starts, not always sure how to proceed, sometimes stalled out and panicked we would never reach our destination. But we arrived, and we made it on time, by God’s good grace.

Congratulations my Love! I couldn’t be more proud of you and how you’ve gone about reaching this goal. From beginning to end you’ve displayed a love for God, for me, your daughter, your colleagues, and your patients. Thank you for inviting me along on this incredible adventure.

I love you more and more every day!

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Joining the “I am a Storyteller link-up” over at Pencilled Daydream!

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9 comments

  1. Susan · · Reply

    Just beautiful, Susanna. Thank you for sharing this journey.

    1. Sometimes I just can’t get over how beautiful a story we’re living, and I just can’t help telling it šŸ™‚

  2. Excellent!! I loved reading this. I am excited for you guys. It made me want to sit down and write out what God has done and is doing in our lives as well. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Ricky! We are so looking forward to having you guys as PART OF our next phase of life. I’d love to read/hear about God’s goodness to you both as well. Can’t wait to share many kingdom focused convos while in Baltimore!

  3. Tamara Miller · · Reply

    this is so beautiful Susanna!

    1. Thank you Tammy! It’s definitely not how I would have penned the script, but God made it into something so much better than I could have ever dreampt up. Blessed!!

  4. What a wonderful post! Even though I’m new to your blog, I loved reading about your guys’ memories through medical school! This is so much like what we are going through right now. My husband just finished his first year of physical therapy school. Although I think med school is much more intense! And how beautiful to see how God has worked in and through you guys and made you stronger through the hard times!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Kasey!!! PT school is definitely tough girl! I wouldn’t downplay that at all. Whenever a couple is married and going through school at the same time it will stretch you in uncomfortable and beautiful ways. They’re tough, but those next 1-2 years can be some of the most enjoyable years of your married life if you let ’em. Enjoy girl!

      1. Thanks! šŸ™‚ That’s really sweet of you! Yeah, I think you’re right, graduate school for any married couple is tough, no matter the subject! Instead of worrying about the time we don’t have together, the Lord has helped learn to focus on the beautiful times we do have in this season of life!

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