The leap of a salmon is a marvelous act to see. Rising ten to twelve feet out of the water, the salmon wills itself to conquer barriers on its heroic upriver journey of self-sacrifice. Swimming against the current, navigating the dangers of bears and otters, the intrepid fish use all their energy returning to their home stream. There they dig nests, lay eggs...and die.
Having been born in a fresh-water stream, salmon migrate to the ocean to live in salt water thousands of miles from their natal stream. How they find their way home is a mystery known only to their Creator.
I've witnessed the salmon leaping up the falls in the Laqunitas Watershed for thirty years and I've never tired of beholding this magnificent feat. It is one of the reasons I became a wildlife biologist, that... and Anna.
My precious Anna, I think about her today just as much as I did when we were students at Piedmont Bible College many years ago. From the day Anna plopped herself down at my lunch table, I had been in love with her. How could I not? Her zest for life was contagious; her blue eyes and freckled face were captivating.
It wasn't long before we were a couple. Caleb and Anna. The future looked so bright as we became engaged to be married. Our dreams were of a life together, establishing a Christian home and having a quiver full of children. Anna loved children and knew her purpose in life was to mother them, home-school them and to provide a warm, loving home for them.
This all changed just days before we were to be wed. My mother called to ask me to come by; she had something she needed to talk to me about. At the time, I thought her voice was more solemn than usual, but I thought it had to do with all the wedding plans.
“Sit down, Caleb. Your father and I need to discuss something that has come up.” Mother looked like she had been crying.
“Caleb, I received some results on medical tests. The doctors found out that I carry HSP, hereditary spastic paraplegia. I'm thankful to God, I'm fine; I don't have the disease. But, I carry the gene. Evidently, this gene is hereditary in my family and HSP is what my brother must have died from as a child. They just didn't know as much about it years ago.”
“You had me worried. But, this sounds like good news...you're well, right?”
“Yes, I am...but, you're not. As my male offspring, you are what they call an unaffected carrier. You don't have HSP, but you carry the gene. Caleb, there is a very good chance your children would be affected with HSP. The doctors told me there is a fifty percent chance your children would have HSP disease. You must tell Anna.”
My father sat by me, one arm around my shoulder. He never said a word; I don't think he knew what to say. His look told me everything...it said now, you must be a man.
I left feeling numb and empty, but hopeful that this was a mistake. It had to be. But, it wasn't.
I never told Anna; telling her would wound her beyond healing. Oh, I knew she would still want to marry me and tell me she loved me. She would smile and say it didn't matter, that God would protect our children. She would never accept the fact that to have my children would be too great a risk.
The hardest thing I have ever done was to break off the engagement. I told her I wasn't ready for marriage, that I had been too hasty. I hurt her, but it couldn't be helped. She could have a life full of children, just not with me.
Just yesterday I received a letter from my mother telling me that Anna's daughter, Callie, was recently married. Callie's pastor-father conducted the wedding and her three sisters were bridesmaids. I felt like the salmon must feel when they see their eggs hatch.
I looked up to see a salmon leap high into the sunlight and over the falls. For a moment, our eyes met.
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