For Caleb

There ought to have been another post before this one, but an unplanned silence took its place.

Last week, a little boy went through this world. A copy of his tiny hand- and footprints rests on our kitchen table, and the distinguishing lines and ripples in them are so very clear.

His mama’s and daddy’s anguish still echoes in my ears. We wept with them on the night of his memorial service, shoulders quaking. Our throats rasped silently against the splintered sound of loss in their voices.

Over the past seven days I’ve been having flashbacks, one after another, of the many life moments we’ve shared with these friends. When they told us the news, we let the grief come slinging its full weight as I stood with my phone in my hand at home and Y sat alone in a conference room at work.

I know there is a passage within this valley of the shadow where we cannot fully go with them, where the sacred way is reserved for them and the Lord who walks with them. But I also recall recent times when the world stopped spinning for Y and me — how jarring it was when our lives halted and others’ continued (necessarily) while the rack went on turning — and so I wanted to say openly, somewhere, that we remember. That this baby boy affected lives three thousand miles away from the place where he touched earth.

I wrote a letter to his mother the day that he died. I couldn’t bring myself to write down any of the well-meant but groundless sentiments that crowd times like these, and began scrabbling for specific truth instead. I am not one who thinks a Christian life would be worth living in a universe where God did not exist; it is too costly a faith without the One who is its reward. So I wanted to be sure of what God’s own words were regarding death, that I might write with comfort — however clumsily offered — of substance. Children in general have a marvelous way of making us simplify our speech and discard the fluff, and this tiny boy compelled me to remember that life is short enough without wasting it on greeting-card vagueness.

I think of how strongly his heart beat, how his time here was 1/500,000th of mine so far. “He fought so hard to live,” our friends said of their son. The words are arresting, and the whole world seemed to flash from his mother’s voice when she said it: pride, brokenness, compassion, agony, a mother’s love. I’ve spent so much of my life warily avoiding cynics and trolls. It has never seemed right to live that way with eternity encroaching, but all the more so now; I will return to her words many times in the years to come, especially when I feel there is little fight and no courage left in my bones.

Three thousand miles away, a sign hangs on the door of his house.

Welcome to Caleb’s Place

It is a place of mourning and sadness — we miss our son — but not of hopeless despair. We love and miss our son with the heartache of parents. A piece of us has been torn away, and we will not know why while we are still on this earth. But this is also a place of joy and gratitude. We are grateful for the time we had with Caleb, and for the gift of healing his life brought to his mother’s body. We are grateful for your love, prayers, and support. And most of all, we are grateful for the Hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ our Lord. In Him we put our faith and cling to His Promise. We look forward to the day we see our son and celebrate with him.

Caleb’s Daddy and Mama

In these wee hours of a Friday morning I remember this much beloved son, whose name belonged to an Israelite of old: a man who followed the Lord wholeheartedly. He went ahead to scout the promised land. And he exhorted the people to press on without fear.

So this small scribble is dedicated to Caleb,
whose legacy is one for which long-lived men strive.