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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Life (06/15/06)

TITLE: Brownies, Cappuccino, and Grace
By Jan Ackerson


Somehow, Tammy always knew when I needed a friend. I had been crying all morning—trying to hide my distress from Caleb by claiming that sudden-onset allergies had reddened my nose and moistened my eyes—when Tammy called.

“How does a four-million calorie mocha brownie from the Chocolate Factory sound?”

I’ve never been one of those fragile women whose appetites shut down when they’re emotional. A four-million calorie treat was exactly what I needed. “I’ll meet you there in ten minutes. I really need to talk.”

“But—can you leave Caleb? I was going to bring it to you.”

“No, Tammy. I have to get out of the house for a while. There’s only so much physical therapy we can do in one day, and besides, he just got some new voice-activated computer software. He’ll be at his computer for hours.”

A few minutes later, we were sipping caramel cappuccino and chasing brownie crumbs with our fingertips.

“So…what’s up, Jeannie? Caleb’s therapy not going well?” Tammy had followed Caleb’s progress closely, since I’d first called her with the noise of the crash still reverberating in my soul.

I swallowed hard, my eyes prickling again with familiar tears. “Nothing new, therapy-wise. But I read an article this morning about some really promising research into a cure for spinal cord injuries…”

Tammy grasped my hand. “That’s wonderful!”

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?” I didn’t recognize my voice, strained and bitter. “But they’re using embryonic stem cells. Looks like they might have the ability to regenerate damaged spinal cord tissue.”

Tammy squeezed my hand. “Oh, Jeannie…”

I’ve never held anything back from Tammy—she knew about my first adolescent kiss, my disastrous brief rebellion while in college, my anger at God following Caleb’s accident. “So here’s the deal. You know that I’ve always been vehemently pro-life, right?”

My dear friend nodded. I kept talking, feeling the ugliness of the words before they left my lips. “Tammy, I just don’t care. If they perfect this cure, even if it’s twenty years from now, I want it for Caleb.”

Tammy met my eyes, and I could see that her own had filled with tears to match mine. I continued with my speech—knowing that I would hurt her, too wounded to care. “You just don’t know what it’s like to see your child so injured, struggling so hard just to get dressed. Eat a sandwich. Go to the bathroom. I know it’s wrong, Tammy, but it comes with being a mother. I’d do anything for Caleb—even if it means losing my salvation. I don’t expect you to understand.”

I pulled my hand out of Tammy’s grasp and delivered my final verbal blow. “Tell me the truth. If there had been a cure for Kelli—something that would have saved her life twelve years ago—wouldn’t you have grabbed for it, even if it came from embryonic stem cells?”

A tear rolled down Tammy’s face and landed in her cappuccino. She was silent for a minute, and I knew that she was remembering the three weeks after Kelli’s birth, nearly two months too early. Kelli had spent twenty days struggling for each breath, her tiny chest collapsing alarmingly after each gasp, her skin a frightening shade of bluish-gray. After Kelli died, Tammy and Butch had never been able to conceive again.

“No, Jeannie,” she finally whispered. “I loved Kelli as much as you love Caleb. But her life was no more precious to God than that of any unborn child.” She choked back a sob. “I couldn’t do that, not even to save Kelli’s life.”

Now it was my turn to reach out. “I’m sorry, sweetie. I really am. It’s just…I want so badly to see Caleb walk again, and it just doesn’t seem like that’s ever going to happen.”

Tammy smiled through her tears, and spoke with uncommon grace. “Of course Caleb will walk again, Jeannie, and if you just think about it for a second, you’d know it, too.”


“No ‘buts’. Who knows if they’ll come up with a cure during Caleb’s lifetime—but he’ll be walking with Jesus forever. What’s a few years of this life, compared to eternity?”

I studied my empty plate in silence, letting the words of grace soak into my spirit. When I looked up again, I saw that Tammy’s face was streaked with tears and a brownie crumb clung to her chin. The light of my Savior shone in her eyes.

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This article has been read 1897 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 06/22/06
Huge moral and ethical question that you have had the courage to address here. Great job with a hard subject.
Jen Davis06/22/06
Wow! Powerfully written. Such a beautiful story with an incredible ending. "...he'll be walking with Jesus forever." Amen.
Suzanne R06/23/06
Oooh ... tough stuff here ... and I agree with the earlier comments - very well handled. You've given us enough details and kept revealing more through the piece to keep us following closely and not feeling 'preached at' and yet also succeeded in effectively portraying your message. Well done.
Sherry Wendling06/23/06
Awesome writing! You lit right into the issue where it hurts. The only thing keeping me from needing a tissue just now is my unabashed admiration for your story-telling skill. The dialogue is so real and alive--right down to the little details, like the brownie crumb thread throughout. The buildup, the discovery of a grief shared...Just perfect. A winner, in my book!
Lori Othouse 06/24/06
Beautiful, touching story. A very difficult situation, but it came to a great ending. Loved the realism with the brownies too!
Carla Feagans06/25/06
Wow, this hit so many nerves for me, yet it was handled so thoughtfully, and, yes, masterfully.

I have a high school friend with a spinal cord injury, and my children were preemies and several of my friends have lost premature babies. I also recently had a friend lose a 6 year old child.

This story touched on so many things and yet made a very strong point in a very sweet, gentle way.

Rita Garcia06/25/06
Powerful, powerful story! A delicate subject, handled with love!
Ann Grover06/25/06
"The light of my Savior shone in her eyes."

What a joy and a blessing to have a friend like this, one who is there through whatever storms and dilemmas we may face.

Excellent writing, as always!
T. F. Chezum06/25/06
Very awesome writing. I always enjoy your work. Great job on a difficult subject.
Pat Guy 06/26/06
I read this. Loved it - and thought I would get back to it. I wanted to think about this.

You touched so eloquently and tenderly on such a sensitive subject, for a friend of mine has suffered for her children also.

But yes, the bottom line has to be 'not at the diliberate cost of another child.'

Thankfully science is researching the same processes without the same consequences.

Tender, poignant, timely, powerful, perfect. A joy to read such work.

George Parler 06/26/06
Thought provoking to say the least. Very touching dialog on a very controversial issue. Good job!
Dr. Sharon Schuetz06/26/06
You handled this touchy subject with such grace and wisdom. Beautiful job. Captivating to the end.
Tabiatha Tallent06/26/06
Thanks for sharing this great message!
Jessica Schmit06/26/06
Great job Jan.

Powerful message handled very well. The story was also written wonderfully.
Venice Kichura06/26/06
Excellent piece on a delicate subject.
As usual, you did a professional job...This should score high!
Shari Armstrong 06/26/06
Beautifully illustrated struggle of a mother. We all want what's best for our children.
Edy T Johnson 06/26/06
Oh Jan, you moved me to tears, again. At least I think I found your "yummy things" entry (I didn't think the Spider or the Fly sounded yummy at all :)

You have to have a book of your stories for us, soon, so we can just revel in your choice words, thoughts, emotions. Thank you, too, for the comment you left on my entry, dear friend.
Anita Neuman06/26/06
Your consistent willingness to be vulnerable in sharing all of these mother-emotions is so powerful. Fabulous work, dear lady!
Jan Ross06/26/06
Wow! What an impact your writing has as the Lord seems to reach through your words to touch the hearts of your readers. His grace is exposed so beautifuly in this story. Thank you so much for sharing your heart without fear of the controversy surrounding the topic. God bless you ....
Garnet Miller 06/27/06
Life throws so many hard choices our way. Good thing that His grace abounds unto us in each and every one of them. Awesome story!
Trina Courtenay06/27/06
You never cease to amaze me Jan!
Jessica Schmit06/28/06
Oh Jan! I almost forgot! I'm so glad you finally decided to bring along those brownies. I've been waiting! LOL
terri tiffany06/28/06
Wonderful!I'm glad I finally took the time to read it!:) Very personal and very real. thank you!
Rita Garcia06/29/06
Jan, Congratulations on your EC win. I am so glad this story won!
Sherry Wendling06/29/06
Jan, congratulations on a (nother!) well-deserved win!
Helen Paynter06/29/06
Powerful courageous writing. Well done Jan - you've done it again!
Jan Ross06/29/06
A well-deserved CONGRATULATIONS! :)
Linda Watson Owen06/29/06
Congratulations, Jan. This story is so real life that it breathes with every word. This is a story a reader can get his teeth into. It's deep, poignant, disturbing...real. Wonderful writing...as always!
Brenda Craig06/30/06
Congratulations Jan, you did an awesome job with a sensitive, moral, and heart breaking subject. Beautiful!
Crista Darr07/06/06
Jan, I have to add my praise - not just for this extraordinary piece but for you. I'm so thankful for the gift God has given you. I believe that God is going to raise you up even higher in the writing work He has for you. You are His voice!