Monday, September 1, 2008

We named him, Caleb.

When we first found out that you were going to be born still we chose not to name you. We had, in the week before, chosen a boy name, but for some unspoken reason that day when we were asked if we wanted to name you we both said no. You were going to be "baby boy or girl K", that was it. We also said we did not want to see you after you were born. I felt as though we were imitating the three wise monkeys, and that if we just looked away long enough, we could walk out of that hospital and pretend that nothing bad had ever happened to us in that building.

After you were born, everything changed. I immediately wanted to know if you were a boy and then I wanted to see you. Your dad, too, came to see you but the pain was so great he walked away. I looked at your face, trying to memorize it, to burn it into my brain so that I would always be able to see you. Today, all I can see are your nose and your lips, tiny and perfect, and exactly like your sisters. And it was then that I knew, you had to have a name. A name to take with you wherever it was you were going and a name that we could call you to make you Real to everyone who asked about you. I didn't want you to just be "the baby' we lost. You needed to be a whole person, someone outside of me, someone who had a name all his own.

I began searching for names when I got home from the hospital. And while nearly everyone who knows me will tell you that I do not seek refuge or comfort from anything religious, ever, I knew there were great stories of faith and strength and courage and hope to be found within the pages of the Bible. Those stories, whether true or not, had always fascinated me just as Greek mythology had, and I hoped that somewhere in those pages I could find a name that would tell your story for you. And I did.

There are actually many versions of the story of Caleb*. But while the details change, the traits and characteristics of Caleb the man remain constant. He was chosen by many to lead them on an expedition to the Promised Land. Of the 12 spies who undertook this journey, 10 of them, after seeing the Giants that would need to be conquered in order to take the land of 'milk and honey', returned to their people and to God and said that the task was to great for them and that they should all give up the quest. Only, Caleb and Joshua, believed that they could conquer the Giants and claim the land that God had promised them. Only Caleb had faith that if they believed in what they wanted they could achieve it. According to the story, God punished all of the spies and their people for being cowards by forcing them to wander and live in the deserts for 40 years. Only Caleb, after completing that punishment, without complaint and with continued faith and hope that every journey, no matter how hard, was worthwhile and should be taken without wasting time complaining about the fairness of it or the harshness of it, was rewarded at the end of the 40 years. When he finally arrived at the Promised Land, despite being 85 years old, he was bestowed a body and spirit of a man 40 years younger. He was granted his youth because his heart had remained pure and his faith in the justness of completing an act well, for no other reason than always doing the best that you can, no matter what the obstacles, remained steadfast.

In choosing this name for you, I believed that it would always tell your story, our story. That our journey together would last for many years, that we would wander an ugly unforgiving territory, for many years, without any reassurance that our journey would ever end or that we would be together when it was over. But, my hope, my need to believe that maybe, one day, we would be, would remain constant. And by giving you the name of the first true conqueror of horrible odds and terrible trials, you would be able to take with you, wherever you went, that same courage to lead where no one else wants to follow, that same faith that in the end the journey would be worthwhile and the belief that when it is all really over, despite the time that has passed, you will be young and strong and your heart will be whole. And maybe, we will be together.
And that is why, we named you Caleb.
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more, day by day,
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that I once had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
*Many name books / websites list the meaning of CALEB as "Dog". However, a simple look in a Hebrew / English dictionary one will see that "dog" in Hebrew is CELEB, not CALEB. **Note** the first vowel is different.CALEB is actually a compound word in Hebrew - something that is quite common in ancient Hebrew. Col (Cuf + Lamed) = all or whole. Lev (Lamed + Vet) = heart. Therefore, CALEB (or COLEV as pronounced in Hebrew) actually means "whole hearted". Faithful could be another translation. However, if you read in the Hebrew Bible the exploits of CALEB (as in one of the twelve spies who went into Caanan Numbers 13:6 & 13:30), one will see that he wasn't simply faithful, but that he served the God of ISRAEL with his whole heart. IE: He was the first to speak up and say, "let's go and conquer this land," (paraphrased). It wasn't JOSHUA (the leader of the 12 spies), but CALEB who was encouraging Israel to follow God in spite of the opposition from the other 10 spies.Therefore, the ancient meaning of CALEB is: "whole hearted".


Aunt Becky said...

Caleb is a lovely, good and strong name for your little boy.


Thinking of you all.

Tash said...

Remembering Caleb, and his wise and wonderful mum, and all his family today.

Reese said...

Such a strong and meaningful name for a very beautiful and meaningful child.

janis said...

I teared up reading this.
Thank you for sharing the story of Caleb's name. The sound of it now has a special place in my heart.
Hugs to you, mama.

CLC said...

It's a beautiful name. Thinking of him and you today.

STE said...

Thinking of you and your boy today. You gave him a wonderful name. And so much love.

G said...

ahh K@l, such a beautiful name. Such a beautiful little boy to remember.


Sarah said...

My son is named Joshua, and we always thought if we had another boy, we would name him Caleb. It's a wonderful name.

I too thought I wouldn't want to see Isabel, wouldn't name her - just sort of wanted to detach as soon as possible. But the process of delivering them makes that impossible I think - and then I wanted to see her. It was awful and reassuring at the same time. And we did name her - a name that meant "Consecrated to God" and felt right and appropriate for her, for then.

It's an awful thing. But I think you did right by naming him, and it's a really perfect name.

kate said...

I am late, but i am thinking of you and sweet Caleb.

Rosalind said...

I'm very late... but this is so beautiful ... thinking of you Kal

Heather said...

I love how you chose his name. What a great story. Thanks for sharing that. Caleb is perfect.

niobe said...

Caleb, with all its associations, has always been one of my favorite names.

Melissa said...

I know this is an older post, but I just caught your link back to it from a new post on your blog. (I ended up here from the glow in the woods)

I love your explanation of the name.

My son was named Caleb as well, for much the same reasons. We searched long and hard for a name with special meaning when we learned of his diagnosis.

Thank you for sharing. I am sorry for your loss.