55: Caleb, Maybe

55: Caleb, Maybe

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Campus Chronicles

Caleb, Maybe

Trouble and perplexity drive me to prayer and prayer drives away perplexity and trouble.

~Philip Melanchthen

It was the dawn of a new day to most people, but I had yet to get a wink of sleep. I watched the rain all night. This particular morning was murky, cold, and misty. My alarm went off at six. Dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, I sat nervously waiting. I bit my nails with my eyes on the clock. The telephone rang and I jumped. I grabbed my coat and my keys as I made my way to the telephone. “Hello,” I answered. It was my friend.

She squeakily said, “Hey, you ready?”

I gravely responded, “Yeah, I’ll be down in a minute.”

We met in front of our dorm and as we made our way to the parking lot, I reflected on our years of friendship. I remembered talks we had in middle school about what we wanted to do after graduating from high school, at what age we wanted to get married and start a family, and how many kids we wanted to have. She wanted to go to college, get married in her mid- to late-twenties, and have one child, a boy. Curious about her choice of name, I asked her what she had in mind. “Caleb, maybe,” she responded.

That was nearly six years ago. She had blossomed into a beautiful, outgoing, and dignified young woman. In high school she was a member of the National Honors Society, an exceptional soccer player, a counselor at our local Boys & Girls Club, and a dedicated volunteer in our community. She had a boyfriend whom she dated through high school. She knew how to balance family, friends, school, and a relationship. I looked up to her.

It was going to be a long trip. We stopped at a nearby McDonald’s. She only ordered a hash brown and a small orange juice, since she was not supposed to eat anything too heavy. We hit the road. No radio, no conversation, just the sounds of the engine and the wheels against the road. It was the longest, most silent eighty miles, perhaps for the both of us.

As I drove into the patient parking lot of the National Women’s Health Organization, I parked beside a silver C-Class Mercedes-Benz. I looked at my friend with concerned eyes. I saw the uncertainty and took her hand. “We’re here. Do you still want to do this?” She didn’t answer. She unbuckled her seatbelt and headed into the clinic. Turning off the car, I sighed.

We sat in the waiting room. All types of women were here — young women who looked to be of high school and college age, middle-aged women who looked as if they already had a few kids, and then there was a particular woman who looked as if she had a very successful career. Some of these women had the support of husbands, some of boyfriends, some of friends, and then some were alone like the businesswoman.

We waited until my friend’s name was called for the pre-counseling session. She asked me to go with her. We entered the counseling room. The drab little room contained a round table cluttered with paperwork. I frowned at the unkempt appearance of the facility. I left the counseling room when the session was over and found my way back to the waiting room. My friend was taken to the room where they would do the procedure.

The dismal atmosphere of the overcrowded waiting room was not alleviated despite efforts to decorate it warmly with vivid bouquets of flowers and lively abstract paintings. I decided to wait in the car. Upon exiting the clinic, I witnessed what I had only seen in movies and on the news. Before me, about thirty feet away, were anti-abortion protesters. There were nine protesters. One man held a seven-foot crucifix made of wood. Two girls were holding an oversized poster reading, “I got an abortion, and I regret it every day.” All the protesters were saying a prayer. “God, bless the sinners, for they know not what they do...” is all I heard as I made my way to the car with a heavy heart.

I reclined my seat and attempted to adjust myself to take a nap before the trip back to school, but I never found comfort. Apprehension clouded my mind, sorrow robbed my soul, and desolation permeated my heart. I felt myself breaking down. It had been a difficult struggle. I was her friend and she had called upon me to fulfill the obligation that true friends share. I couldn’t hold back any longer. I let my tears go and did the only other thing I knew how to do. I prayed. I held on to the thought that she might walk out of the clinic untouched; however, that was not what I prayed for. I prayed that God would give her what she needed: a clear mind and the strength to persevere. Her life was going to be different either way. That day would always remain with her, invading her thoughts and manifesting itself in unsolicited dreams. The decision she faced, and what she felt that day, would become all too familiar, and if she remained haunted, I prayed that I would be there, comforting her.

As I wiped my tear-stained face, I pulled down the visor to protect my eyes from the sun. A 4”x 6” piece of glossy white paper fell into my lap. I had stumbled upon a picture of an ultrasound. I held the picture close to my heart, and said to myself, “Caleb, maybe.”

~Jestena Hinton

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