For You have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. – Psalm 56:13
May of 2003 was the hardest month of my life. I don’t know why God delivered me from death, and not my son, or why my feet didn’t stumble, why I didn’t lose my faith in God, except that I may walk before Him in the light of life, that I may live my life in its fullness – as it was meant to be lived. I think part of this full life is sharing my story.
My story is also Caleb’s story. Caleb Joshua Freedom Sklar is my middle son, and he lives in heaven and in the hearts of all who know and love him. He was stillborn on May 21, 2003, just 8 days before his scheduled c-section date. There were no warnings beforehand and no conclusions afterward.
During the week before Caleb was born, I felt something was not quite right and his movements slowed down a lot. The doctor checked his heartbeat which was still strong, and everyone told me he was just saving his energy for the “big move”. I still felt him move a little, so I ignored my worries and prayed a lot. It was so close to the due date, everything was all ready for him, how could anything go wrong now?
I woke up on May 19th and knew I had to check his heartbeat again, something was VERY wrong. Josiah, my oldest son, and I went to a walk-in clinic. Josiah was 21 months old at the time. We left my husband, Josh, at home to get some sleep. He’d come home late the night before from a job interview in Seattle.
The clinic doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat but told me not to worry, his equipment wasn’t the greatest, and sent me to the hospital. I left Josiah with Josh and went by myself. Five nurses and doctors and an ultrasound later, it was confirmed that Caleb has passed. In that instant God picked me up, held me in His arms and didn’t put me down again until after the funeral. Then He held my hand and never let go. He walked with me through the grief that came after. His grace, strength, love and peace met with me in my darkest time.
That short time of truth in the hospital is a blur for me, I remember lots of hushed tones, worried faces, denial from me, staring out the window pleading with God to make it alright, and then this huge feeling of consuming grief that would eventually spill over into every part of my life. But the grief became less consuming over time and other, better things replaced its intensity.
I remember a wonderful nurse who took me into an empty room and held me while I cried. She told me we are all given no more than we can handle and that I was going to be OK one day. I remember calling Josh from a private spot in the nurse’s station, telling the man I love that his son had died before ever meeting him. I remember I couldn’t get home fast enough to hold him and Josiah. I remember walking down our driveway, watching Josh run to meet me, and me saying over and over “I’m so sorry”. Josh immediately alleviated any thoughts I had that this was my fault, though I’d have to learn that for myself too. We proceeded to call family and friends, and wait for them to rally to our side – which they did as soon as humanly possible.
Then it was time to go back to the hospital and deliver Caleb. I was advised to try to deliver him naturally instead of going through with the c-section. I said I’d give it a try, and after 14 hours of labour and lots of epidural, Caleb was born at 2:45am on May 21st.
His birth was far from the joyous occasion it should have been. Such a sad stillness hung in the air when Caleb was born, and we knew we would still have to wait to meet him, he still wasn’t with us.
Josh was amazing, and so strong. Family and friends surrounded us during our time in the hospital. At one point there were about 10 people in my room – an amazing feat because of the SARS scare – God snuck them all in – I was only supposed to have Josh with me.
Caleb stayed in our room with us for a few hours after he was born. We were able to hold him, and let others hold him if they chose – for some it was too hard and that was OK with us. We snapped a few pictures, prayed and said our goodbyes in the privacy of our hospital room. We soaked up all we could about him – he looked just like his big brother, he had Josh’s toes, and the Collier cleft chin (from my side of the family). He was a big boy (8lbs 1oz.), and looked very strong and serious. We caught just a glimpse of him as he was on this earth.
Then the people from the funeral home arrived. One of the hardest things we had to do was place Caleb in the arms of the wonderful woman who helped us through all the “arrangements” of the next couple of days. It was worse than the burial – maybe because we could visualize handing him over, surrendering him to another, watching our hopes and dreams disappear down the hallway in the arms of someone else. We physically gave him over that day, but then we had to start the long process of handing him over in a spiritual and emotional sense.
That was May 21, 2003. As Caleb had already arrived at the final destination of his journey – his heavenly home, so now we began our journey of grief and healing as a family, together with our oldest son, Josiah David.