Everyone loves a story of triumph; the story where a person, having endured every imaginable obstacle, perseveres to the finish….against all odds.
This is our story of triumph.
Eight and a half years ago, while I was in the hospital for severe pre-term labor with Judson, petrified that our child was going to arrive precariously early, Drake was at UCLA taking his written and oral competency exams for his PhD in History of Religions. Despite the intense stress and fear we were facing over our unborn baby, Drake successfully passed his exams and advanced to candidacy. Thereafter, the last step to becoming Dr. Levasheff was to write his dissertation.
In general, the statistics for completing a PhD are not favorable. The Council of Graduate Schools reports that only 47% of male doctoral students in Humanities actually complete their degree once they’ve started—less than half. But little did we know, when Drake advanced to candidacy, how the odds would become almost completely stacked against him.
In the season that immediately followed his exams, we faced multiple stresses and transitions: Our Judson was born (amazingly, he was full-term). I stopped working. Drake started a new job. Six months later Drake was laid off from that job. We weathered a few months of unemployment. Drake started another new job. I discovered I was pregnant with our second child. We moved to a new area, which entailed numerous changes. And soon thereafter, Jessie arrived. As you can imagine, such instability significantly affected Drake’s capacity to engage his dissertation.
Then, a few months later, we discovered our beloved boy was terminally ill.
I remember just weeks before Jud passed away, while we were lying in bed, Drake was staring up at the ceiling, his chest heaving as he wept bitterly, tears rolling down the side of his face. With despair he wondered aloud, “If Judson dies, I don’t know how I’ll make it.” He began lamenting many of the potential challenges. At the top of his list he shared, “It will be impossible to finish my dissertation. I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to complete my degree.”
Judson died, and we became disabled—internally disabled by our sorrow and loss. Engaging even the smallest things in life took on a new challenge. And for Drake, completing his dissertation felt like being part way up Mount Everest and suddenly losing his legs…climbing to the top seemed an impossible task.
I vividly recall where we were sitting in October 2010 when Drake looked me in the eye, resolute and determined, and declared, “I’m gonna do it! I’m gonna climb this mountain. I’m gonna finish my degree and I’m gonna do it in honor of Judson!”
Fast forward again.
Indeed, Drake has done just that! He has climbed our Mount Everest! Having endured unimaginable obstacles, even in the home stretch—other trying circumstances including a severe car accident—but Drake has reached the precipice! The Dr. before his name is like his flag waving at the top of the mountain, a symbol of resilience and strength and a tribute to our son.
This journey to earn his PhD began twelve years ago (yes, you read that correctly—twelve!). When we set out on this path we didn’t have kids, didn’t expect to have children, and certainly never could have imagined what would befall our family. But at the time, we felt strongly that a doctoral degree would be a great compliment to Drake’s gifts. Now we see that it has also beautifully demonstrated his character; Drake has modeled diligence, fortitude, perseverance, passion, sacrifice and honor by persisting toward the goal we had set together many years ago—and all of it ultimately points to God’s sustaining grace.
It seems fitting that Drake had his doctoral degree conferred on June 13th, exactly six years to-the-date that our horrific journey with Judson began. I am so incredibly proud of my Dr. Drake…who has triumphed…against all odds!