The Best Moms Become Grandmas

Shady Shebak, MD, MEHP (Candidate)
Founder and Chairman of MOVE, Movement for Outreach-Volunteerism-Education
Child and Adolescent Fellow, Michigan State University Department of Psychiatry, East Lansing, MI

Second Semester…

It was December 10th, 2009. I was in medical school, and it was nearing the end of my second semester. We were actually studying for finals, and finals were critical for me this time around. I was not doing so well in my classes, as it was an off semester for me. I was struggling through biochemistry, pretty much failing the class, and having difficulties with immunology and physiology. It was a rough time for me, mostly because I was just not getting it that semester. Sometimes, we go through unexplainable periods in life where our energy, our hearts and souls are just not into ‘it’, and this was the story of my second semester in medical school.

Shady MDAnyways, I was in a tough spot. I needed to pass all of my finals, and actually needed to do fairly well on my biochemistry final in order to pass the semester and not have to retake any course. If I failed all three, heaven forbid, I’d actually be dismissed from medical school! I was anxious, terrified at the prospect, and could not tailor my focus to one final at the expense of the others since I was in pretty bad shape in all three classes. What a mess!

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. I was taking a break from studying. Actually, we were taking a break from studying, as I studied with a consistent study buddy, and we decided to just relax for a bit. I went onto Facebook, and I saw that my brothers’ had changed their profile pictures to my grandmother’s picture. I immediately knew what this meant and broke out in tears. I could not hold back my emotions. I loved my grandmother to pieces, and she really was a mother and a caretaker for me. More than my siblings and maternal cousins, I spent the most time with her as the oldest of the “kids”. I was practically raised by her for much of my childhood. I always wanted to sleep at her house, and we’d stay up at night watching old Arabic movies and shows. The Arabic channel at the time was called “TV Orient”, and I remember I would just enjoy those moments dearly.

One time, I remember becoming fairly ill, vomiting and I had a terrible headache. I’m sure there were many more instances of illness, but this time sticks out to me as my grandmother put my head on her lap and read various Qur’anic verses. I was about seven years old, so I thought this was some magical ritual going on! Surprisingly, I felt better.

When I saw the Facebook picture, all of these memories flooded. I remembered all the nights I spent teaching my grandmother English, while she would teach me Arabic. I remembered all of the times I spent with her shopping for candy, or going on walks, or Shady Shebak grandmalaughing hysterically. I remembered her grace, her love, and her life lessons. I remembered her stories that she told us about her childhood in Lebanon, learning English from Mrs. Brown, whoever that is! And I also remembered her 10 year struggle with Alzheimer’s, as she gradually began to forget and lose insight and behavioral control. Fortunately, I knew her so well before and after the Alzheimer’s, that my memories were of a fuller picture of who my grandmother was. She was a lady, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a pious Muslim who never missed a prayer.

With those memories, I remember taking the rest of the day off from studying, and I reflected on her life. I spent the weekend lightly studying, and went in the following week to take my finals. I did the best I could, and after my last exam, I headed right to the airport to spend my two week break with my family and friends back in Michigan. I had a few hour stop in Charlotte Airport, and I decided to open my laptop and check my grades. Only immunology was posted, and I had passed! It wasn’t for another two days until all of my grades posted, and with God’s grace, I had passed all of my exams. I went on to finish medical school, and never had a semester quite like my second semester ever again!

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