Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Day 29 - Pinnacle

[Blog post written by Mark Bonnema]

When the end of a chapter of life draws near, many people feel a bit ambivalent – both satisfied for reaching completion of a phase of life and anxious about what will come next. Ashley is rapidly approaching the close of her chapter as a graduate voice student at the University of South Dakota. Many times within the same hour, or even the same sentence I hear both the excitement of anticipation and the anxiety of the next unknown in her voice and her words.

First day of grad school
August 2013
According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s 2012 Patient Registry Report, only 5.7% of adults with CF obtain a masters or doctoral degree. As the median age of survival increases and as we inch ever closer to a cure for this disease, I trust that this number will blossom in years to come. Opportunities for a “normal” life, one ripe with choices and filled with many chapters will be increasingly available to person’s living with CF as they age.

Two Years Full of Truly Living
As it stands today, Ashley’s pending accomplishment is exceptional. Regardless of her merits of a student, the mere act of investing two years worth of energy, time, and breath into advanced studies is remarkable. I remember when Ashley first began dreaming of graduate school and questioning if it was the right thing to do. We were nervous for her health, wondering if her lungs would meet the challenge. Despite some ups and some very difficult trials, I can now say with confidence that I am glad she undertook the challenge. I think it has been more life-giving than life-taking, as it has fed her mind and soul. Not to mention it has helped to recoup and keep her lungs in singing health.

What truly stands out to me as I think back across Ashley’s graduate school years is the amount she was able to accomplish in addition to her school studies and achievements. She has created and fostered more friendships over the past two years than I could dream of in a lifetime. She has created a heartfelt and honest blog that has reached and touched thousands of people. She has taught dozens of students both at the university and at our home and helped them to find a love and passion for music. She has been a friend, sister, God-mother, cousin, daughter, wife, and so much more to a great many people.

Fight to the Finish
The next two weeks (the final weeks of her graduate school studies) are going to be a great challenge for Ashley. She has an enormous amount of studying, preparing, and practicing to do before she undertakes a final graduate recital and completes comprehensive exams. It's been a great uphill climb, and the summit is within sight. She has nearly reached the pinnacle of this chapter of life. I pray her health and body hold out and give her this chance to finish strongly. We don’t know yet what lies ahead in the next chapter, but for now it's full steam ahead to the completion of graduate school.

To everyone else nearing the completion of a chapter of life and facing the challenge of a new chapter to come, I wish you all the best! Breathe bravely and enjoy the journey.

Ashley, you can do it: we all believe in you.

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