I am so excited to share this beautiful post by April Moody, the mother of a remarkable little boy named Caleb. I first heard Caleb’s story through his grandmother’s blog and was deeply touched by his life. It is hard for me to explain how the life of a boy, whom I never met, touched me. But he did, in a powerful way. The day I found out he died I cried like I had lost someone I loved. I am so grateful that April is willing to share her story, because it is an important one in a world where people’s worth is based on what they can “do” and not just who they are. I hope you learn to love Caleb as much as I have!
Quite often the first question expectant parents are asked is ”Are you having a boy or a girl!” Those who don’t have a preference might respond with something like, “We just want a healthy baby” or “we don’t care as long as it has 10 fingers and ten toes…” I probably would have agreed, before I had Caleb.
When we were expecting Caleb, we initially found out he had hydrocephalus and that his brain was missing the corpus collosum. As the weeks went on we continued to find out more about Caleb’s condition. I remember the day that a doctor called me after viewing the results of an in-utero MRI. He casually told me that Caleb was also missing one of his eyes.
One eye. Over the next few months of my pregnancy, it seemed that every time we learned something new, something else was missing. When Caleb was born, we soon found out he was largely missing his brain. That information wasn’t the most devastating. “You’ll likely have weeks before his death- take him home, there is nothing more we can do” was the most devastating. It didn’t matter what was missing. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t a healthy baby. We couldn’t bear the thought of missing him.
Even though we were broken hearted to know our time with Caleb would likely be limited, we knew that Caleb was an eternally significant part of our family. We knew that Caleb’s special body was an important part of his mission. His physical challenges and his celestial spirit were entertwined. To wish away his challenges would have also been wishing away the opportunity to have heaven in our home.
Before Caleb was born, we told our boys he would only have one of his eyes. They were so worried about what that would mean. “Don’t worry, “I would say, “He will just wink at us every day!” Caleb’s wink was his mission. In our family a wink means I love you. Caleb was never able to say I love you with words, but he showed it every day with his wink.
After Caleb was born he spent several days in the newborn intensive care unit. Because he was so unstable he was given a name and a blessing while we were there. After my husband finished Caleb’s blessing, my Dad gave me a Father’s blessing. In that blessing he promised me that the atonement could heal a broken heart.
That evening we were told Caleb wouldn’t make it through the night. I was broken. I felt like every cell in my body was sad. I remember thinking “even the people who love me the most can’t understand how I feel in this moment.” My heart was in anguish. Then my phone rang. A friend called to tell me about the prayer that was said in church for our family. The prayer asked Heavenly Father to comfort us because He knew what it was like to lose a son. He knew. It was then that I realized His son also knew. My older brother, my Savior Jesus Christ knew. He knew because He felt my sorrow in a personal moment in Gethsemane.
That night as I was in and out of sleep and tears, the phrase He knows kept returning to my mind. I remember feeling like my burden could be shared with somebody because He knew. I realized for the first time that the atonement isn’t just the sadness that we feel for our sins and our mistakes, but it also encompasses our worries, and our heartaches, and our despairing and anguishing moments. It brought me comfort to know that I had my Older Brother on one side and my Father on the other side who knew and that was enough to carry me through those hard days.
After eight days in the NICU, we took Caleb home on hospice care. We were encouraged to purchase a burial plot and to prepare to say good bye. We didn’t want our time with Caleb to be filled with worry and sorrow so we decided early on to choose hope! We chose to celebrate each day we had with Caleb. We had a birthday party for him every week and spent hours in our rocking chair soaking in his precious spirit. Those first few days at home were so tender. I remember browsing a website that told the stories of children with conditions similar to Caleb. Sadly, I noticed many passed away before their first birthday. However,as I read story after story including those who did outlive their prognosis, the thought distinctly came to me if Caleb can make it to his first birthday- hecan make it to his seventh.
Seven. That number gave me hope and permission to breathe. Seven years seemed like such a long time when compared to what we’d been told to expect.
The weekly birthday parties stopped after we celebrated his 6 month birthday and he became more stable, but the celebrations continued! My then 2 year old Matthew would tell everyone he met, “Do you know the doctors told us Caleb was going to die and he didn’t? That’s the first miracle I ever saw!” Life with Caleb was a miracle.
In those first few weeks that we were at home with him we chose to be joyful even though doctors were telling us the worst. We learned that’s it’s not living in denial to live a hopeful life. Caleb’s spirit radiated with pure love. He reminded us all what heaven feels like. We never mourned what could have been for Caleb. He could have quickly returned to heaven, but instead he has quietly brought heaven to us. It was okay that he had a special body. His presence…was enough.
We delighted in his smiles, in his snuggles and in his light. Caleb’s three brothers adored him. They loved his kissable cheeks. They helped him say the family prayer by using their special “Caleb voices.” They went to him to find peace, and they found comfort just by curling up by him. One of Caleb’s brothers often said, “Do you think that when Caleb is resurrected he can still have his winking eye because it’s just so cute!” We loved Caleb just the way he was. Our family would not have been complete without him.
Realizing how precious every minute was made every minute count. Caleb taught us to find joy in every day. Caleb radiated with love and light. Even though he couldn’t speak with words his little spirit just spoke volumes about what it means to love.
Caleb turned 7 just one month before he died. The Sunday after Caleb returned to Heavenly Father I was in church taking the sacrament. As I did so with tears streaming down my face, the image of Caleb’s baby blessing flashed before my eyes and I heard those words once again from my Father “The atonement can heal a broken heart.” Heavenly Father knows. When he blesses us something extra tender He also blesses us with an abundance of his tender mercies.
My testimony of the atonement gives real meaning to the phrase, “Families can be together forever.” I know with certainty that our Savior has over come death. I am so thankful for the joyful knowledge that death is not the end, and that though Him my family can be together forever. I am so thankful for the glimpse of heaven that came with our sweet Caleb and his wink.
If you’d like to read more of Caleb’s story you can visit April’s blog A Wink from Heaven