What a day yesterday! It was almost too much to take in and process. I mean, we’ve been waiting eight years for this. That’s a long time! It feels exciting and surreal all at the same time. I woke up at 4am because I heard E cry out and ended up going to get Zakkai up to go to the bathroom and I couldn’t go back to sleep. My head was just swirling, thinking about yesterday and next thing I knew, Ben and I realized we were both awake! We spent the next hour just talking about everything, rehashing, marveling, thanking God. Then we fell back asleep until the munchkins decided to wake up. We celebrated with strawberry shortcake for breakfast!!!
So yesterday Ben left at 6:30am and took the train down to the university. He had to get there early to set up, test a Skype call with one of his committee (who lives in KY and couldn’t travel for the defense) and other things. Eliana and I got there just after 11 but by the time we found parking and walked through the drizzle to the OI (Oriental Institute), we were only 8 minutes away from his starting time! Just enough time to say hello and give him a big hug.
Some of his good friends, who came in the program a year after B did, came to hear him and I got to say hello to each of them and also one of Ben’s professors, who was on his reading committee. He was really nice and asked if I was excited. I said yes, but nervous, too! He said not to be, which was a good sign:) Generally speaking, they won’t allow you to get all the way to your defense if they aren’t going to pass you. That would make them bad faculty advisors, however, it’s really nervewracking and a BIG deal!!
So, E and I gave Ben and hug and told him we’d be praying and left as people were filing in. The advisor, the other professors on B’s reading committee, the chair of the department and a representative of the Dean of Humanities were all there to reside over the defense and to ask the questions. Actually just the committee asked questions; the chair has to be there and the representative has to be there to make sure it’s a “fair” defense with no weird dealings going on. Ben’s defense was in a room in the basement so Eliana and I hung out upstairs by the Oriental Museum. She was such a good girl! We drew pictures, watched people, talked, she ate her lunch. And on and on it dragged!
I was not expecting it to take so long. Ben had 25 minutes to present his dissertation and findings and then he would be asked questions, in which he would have to “defend” his position. That took forever! Finally at about 10 til 1pm, Eliana and I went downstairs to wait because I was sure it would be done any minute. One of Ben’s friends had to leave early for a meeting but he told me it was going well and not to worry! The whole defense took about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Wow!
Then all of the sudden, the doors opened and Ben and all the non-faculty left the room. Eliana shouted, “Daddy!!!!” and went running to him, which really made him happy. He was caught in a conversation with a scholar lady (who was very strange!) so I couldn’t even say anything to him, which stunk. I was standing nearby waiting and one of Ben’s fellow students said everything was good and they should be out soon.
Next thing I knew, the doors opened and Ben’s advisor came out with an outstretched hand and shook Ben’s hand saying, “Congratulations to the newest Dr in the dept!” Whoa. It was hard to take in! They told him to come back in the room and when Eliana and I finally made our way into the room, they were popping a bottle of champagne and handing out glasses so everyone could toast Ben!!! How cool is that?
The chair of the department handing me a glass and even though I absolutely loathe the taste of alcohol, I, too raised my glass (of course!!) when Dr Pardee, Ben’s advisor, said, “Everyone raise your glass and toast the newest Dr!” I took a teeny sip and Ben made a corny joke about me not liking alcohol and everyone drank in Ben’s honor!
It was so fun! People were congratulating him and I could tell he was overwhelmed and just kind of in shock. The professors and students said the nicest compliments! One of Ben’s professors who was on his committee stopped at the door on the way out and told me that it was the best defense he’s ever been to!! That is a really high compliment. The professors do not hand out compliments easily, which has been hard for him going through this entire process. I kept hearing over and over how well he presented, how clear and how well he answered the questions and just how interesting the discussion was.
It was an answer to prayer. I prayed specifically for those things, for his presentation and for him being able to clearly and effectively answer the questions. The fact that people specifically named off those things without me even asking really made it feel like God was saying, “See? I heard your prayers. I was here and I am good!” And He is.
I got to meet people that I’ve heard about for 8 years now and never have met! Everyone was really nice and Ben was just beaming the whole time:) After people left, two of Ben’s good friends took us out to a quick lunch nearby! They were so sweet and just enjoyed the moment with Ben. I’m sure it gives them hope and encouragement for their own day a year or two from now.
Then we had to rush back to pick up the boys from school. We were running very late and got caught in terrible Friday traffic so a friend of mine, whose kids are in the same schools, took the boys home with her. Eliana fell sound asleep in the car and after Ben and I both called our anxiously awaiting mothers to celebrate, we spent the rest of the hour and a half long car ride, just talking and tearing up and being so amazed.
We got home to let Ben change so we could go out to celebrate and he was already getting emails from some of his professors congratulating him and giving him high compliments!! We went out, at Ben’s request, to Giordano’s, a famous Chicago pizza chain, and celebrated with some deep dish pizza. We don’t go out to eat very often so it was a real treat!!
Sometimes soon, maybe I’ll be able to express what it has been like over these years and what this is like. For now though, we are just so incredibly thankful and riding high on the emotions of a huge accomplishment and the amazement of what God has done!!!