Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Life (06/15/06)
TITLE: Brownies, Cappuccino, and Grace
By Jan Ackerson
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“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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