Caleb’s Story

Caleb’s Story

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.

6 thoughts on “Caleb’s Story

  1. After having read Caleb’s story, by heart goes out to you and your family Anna. You are a truly remarkable, strong woman. Having had 3 miscarriages myself, I can relate to your sorrow. Although we now have a beautiful daughter (and another on the way), I often think of the babies I didn’t get to hold – what they would look like, if they would be just as goofy as Grace…etc. Although I didn’t get to meet them, they will forever be a part of my life.
    I find that there is such a stigma associated with miscarriage and stillbirth. When I lost my first baby, so many of my friends and family members came to me telling me their stories… I had never known! I think it’s important that we acknowledge the pain that this loss brings and that we honour the little ones we miss.
    Thank you for sharing your story!!
    Sincerely,
    Stacy Sathaseevan

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    1. Thank you for your words, Stacy. It is good to hear from you! And thank you for sharing a glimpse of your story – I never knew…
      And your daughter Grace is beautiful – we saw you on the front cover of the Sudbury Parents magazine – what an amazing picture!
      Congratulations on the expectation of another little one – I will pray for health, safe arrival and many wonderful years together as a family.
      You are so right, our babies are forever a part of our lives, even if we don’t get to meet them just yet.
      We still love them, they are still our children, and it’s so challenging to figure out how to love them and give their lives meaning. Telling their stories and sharing with others is a big part of that, I think.
      See you on the rugby field!
      Anna

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    1. Thanks so much Andi – I wrote a small book about it this past year, and I’m currently summoning the strength to write a query letter and researching which publisher to send it to first. Hopefully it will be published, and hopefully it will reach many hearts – my son’s story seems to keep reaching out to so many hurting people and helping them in their grief. It’s amazing to watch as he touches this world in ways I never imagined. God bless, Anna

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  2. Hi Anna:
    I just finished reading Caleb’s story and can relate with my story in some ways. My son, Alain, was taken to be with God at the young age of 27 months. He had a congenital disorder called Athrogryposis Multiplex Congenita. In short he had arthritic like processes that affected some of his joints but primarily affected his muscles – therefore his lungs. He essentially died of an old man’s disease of Congestive Heart Failure. This was March 11, 1991 – more than 18 years ago.
    My biggest fear was that he would be forgotten and my husband and I would be left holding his memory alone but that was not to be the case at all. When Alain died, my daughter Julie was 4 and had it not been for her in my life at that time, I know with near certainty that I would not be where I am today. You see at that time, I didn’t have a relationship with God. Sure my catholic upbringing (as twisted as it was) had taught me about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit but not in any way that I could ever connect with God the way I do now.
    Moving forward to 2004 – when I came to truly know the Lord and openly give my heart to Him, was baptized in the Ottawa River, I had the pleasure of meeting the youth leader from our church in Petawawa who prayed with me after a sermon about loss. At that point she had me close my eyes and walk through the day Alain died and allowed me to see where Jesus was in all of my pain and loss – it was exceptionally comforting to see Him at the head of my son’s bed in the PICU with his arms extended. In all of that moment I heard him say to me that he was not mine but that he had gifted me with him for a time. I felt honored to have been chosen to be the one Jesus had trusted his little boy with. Although it was many years later, I found yet another level of peace in my heart over this loss.
    I too know that one day, he will be there to meet me but in the meantime I know with all my being that Alain is fighting the cause for children in the world today to be seen, to be heard and to be loved. I believe that with all my heart and always wonder if that is why God has placed a huge desire in my heart for children
    We are now in 2009 and I have had the privilege and honor to help children and love them unconditionally both here at home and in the mission field (Belize 2008 with Josh and a great team). Today I sit and write this as I watch my son play with his cars like there is no care in the world. Joshua is only 32 month adopted little boy is the son of my foster daughter that we have had in our lives for the past 12 years. It is because of Alain’s death that we felt compelled to foster a child in need. Who would have known that all these years later she would give birth to a little boy at such a young age that she could not care for him and that God would open our heart once more to adopt Joshua. God is good!
    Thank you for sharing your story, your pain and your faith so openly! I admire that greatly! God bless

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    1. Hi Denise:
      Thank you so much for sharing your heart and Alain’s story. I love to hear about how Jesus works in our lives, restoring us, renewing us and healing us from our pain. He truly is a wonderful Saviour. I love the image you shared of Jesus at the end of Alain’s PICU bed – that is such a beautiful picture of a loving God. I also had to deal with the truth that Caleb was “on loan” to me during his short time here, and continue to discover his purposes here on earth and in the lives of those who love him.
      Again, thank you for sharing, I am honoured to know about your son.
      God bless you too,
      Anna

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