Happy Birthday Caleb!

Caleb and the Prince


Janene Baadsgaard

alias Granny B.

(this is a special story written for my grandson Caleb on his 6th birthday)

Once there was a rich and powerful king who lay dying. In the quiet moments just before he took his last breath, he saw his life flash before him . . . and shuddered. He called for his son.

“Yes father?” the prince asked.

“Son, I am dying. It is too late for me,” the king said. “But it is not too late for you. Today I meet my Maker and I am terrified.”

“Terrified? Father you have never been afraid,” the prince answered.

“I’ve lived every day of my life in fear. My father left me his kingdom and I was terrified someone might try to take it from me. I could trust no one – not even your mother or brothers and sisters. I’ve forced the villagers to forge my swords, build my castles, amass my army and plunder my treasure so that I could remain king. But I was always painfully alone and afraid. I will not do to you what my father did to me. Denounce my kingdom. Choose a better one.”

“But I know no other way to live,” the prince answered.

“Then you must know this: From this day forward, evil men will desire all you have. You will spend the rest of your life fighting to preserve a kingdom that will ultimately fail you. You will loose your life fighting to save what I have left you. And I have left you only ashes. You will learn to trust no one, even your own wife and children. When you are about to die, you too will be afraid. You must know now that everything I leave you has been bought at the cost of other men’s lives. I took their labor. I took their gold. I took their fair sons. My subjects hate me and they will turn against you.”

“Why do you tell me all this now?” the prince asked. “What am I to do father?”

“Go into the village and find the aged mother of a bed-ridden son,” the king said. “She is my mother and her son, my brother, is the true king.  Long ago I made sure he would never reign.  Together they will teach you all you need to know.”

Then the king cried out in anguish, “Oh God, forgive me. Have mercy on my soul.”

At that moment, the king died and the prince was alone. He was not sad for he feared his father. His mother and brothers and sisters had all been beheaded by the king. He did not know he had a living grandmother and an uncle in the village.

Under the cloak of night the prince left the guarded castle and went to the village. He found the aged mother and her bed-ridden son in a small hut with a warm blazing fire.

When the prince’s grandmother saw him enter her home, she instantly recognized her grandson, smiled and embraced him. The prince had never been embraced and recoiled.

“Don’t be afraid,” his grandmother said. “You are safe here.” Then she invited him into the back room where his uncle rested in a fresh bed of straw. “This is your uncle. His name is Caleb. Though he can not see, hear, speak or move - he has many gifts.”

So the prince sat next to his uncle and waited. His father’s brother could not respond to the prince’s questions. Yet there was something about being in Caleb’s presence that made the prince feel at peace for the first time in his life.

“I have come to learn from you,” the prince said.

Caleb could not speak a word; yet as the prince reached out and touched the hand of his silent uncle, he felt a glimmer of tenderness fill his heart for the first time. Then as the moments turned into hours the prince felt his heart grow lighter and lighter and warmer and warmer.

Many weeks passed. Soon the prince’s grandmother asked him to help Caleb eat. Then she asked him to help his uncle sit up and stretch his muscles. Then she asked the prince to change his uncle’s soiled clothes and bedding. Soon the prince was providing all the care his uncle required.

One day the prince’s grandmother grew ill and could not raise her head from her bed. The prince was afraid. He went to his grandmother’s side in despair.

“Will you care for your uncle after I die?” the prince’s grandmother asked quietly.

“Yes,” the prince answered.

“Each time you willingly and joyfully take care of someone who can not take care of themselves you bring great light into this dark world. Each time you learn to love someone deeply an angel places one shining stone upon another in a higher kingdom you can not see. But you will go there some day. I go there now with great peace and anticipation. I will be there to greet you when you come home.”

“Aren’t you afraid?” the prince asked.

“No,” his grandmother answered. “Because of the love I have for Caleb I have felt the love of God. I know that God has prepared a grander kingdom for me with a blazing fire of warmth. There I will never be alone, afraid or sick again.”

Then as the prince embraced his grandmother, she took her last breath and relaxed into a smile with her eyes opened toward heaven. The prince wept until he could weep no more. Then he went to his uncle’s room and knelt by his side.

“Your mother is dead,” the prince said.

Next he picked up his uncle and brought him to his grandmother. The prince saw Caleb’s face soften into a radiant smile as he looked upon his mother. The prince held his uncle in his arms as they both went outside and looked up into the star-lit sky.

“She will be waiting for us when it is our turn,” the prince said as he stroked his uncle’s brow. Don’t be afraid. I’m here. I will never leave you. I will care for you. I love you Caleb.”

In the days that followed the prince opened his father’s treasure hoard and returned the riches to the villagers. He dispersed the army and sent the fair sons back to their mothers. He turned the dark castle into a loving home where he cared for Caleb and all the other sick or orphaned children in his valley.

When the people from the village were troubled, sick, or in despair they would come to the castle and sit with Caleb for a spell. Though no words were spoken, Caleb would fill their soul with light and hope. Then they could go back into the dark world with the warmth of his love burning brightly inside them.

Soon the prince married and had children of his own. He and his wife brought more and more children into their home and never turned any one away. No evil men desired the prince’s kingdom because they saw no gold or power to seize or destroy.

On the day Caleb was taking his last breath, the prince was at his side. When Caleb stopped breathing, the prince felt the room grow lighter and brighter until it appeared as the noon day sun. He saw a gleaming castle on a hill in the distance and his grandmother reaching out to her son. Caleb arose from his bed for the first time and ran into her arms.

“Someday I will be with you,” the prince said as the light slowly faded in the room. “Then we will all be home at last in each other’s love.”