My first child died when she was 3 ½ months old. It was unexpected. We named her before she was born, we actually named her before she was conceived. It was an agreement that my husband and I made. If I would take his last name, we would give our firstborn my maiden name, boy or girl, as a first name. Luckily, my last name was Brady. So, upon finding out we were expecting, from that very first moment that the little stick told us our future, we called that little life Brady. She died just short of a year to the date that we found out she was coming. For almost a solid year, we had known her name.
Now, she is gone. We cannot rock her gently in our arms, we cannot kiss her boo-boos, we cannot plan a future with her, and I never heard her say, “mama.” She died when she was asleep.
A co-worker once asked me if I felt like we “wasted a name” on Brady. It was an honest (though insensitive) question. She really wanted to know if I was grieving the loss of her name. I was not, because as long as that name is spoken, Brady lives. David Eagleman says, “There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the graved. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.” As long as I am alive, death cannot kill her name.
So, as we named our subsequent children, we put great thought into their names and how we would shape their identity, because long after we are gone, our names live on. Oliver (Ollie) was named when we were pregnant with Brady. Not needing a boy name, we discovered we love the name, and tucked it away for a future boy, should we be so blessed. We were, and his name is forever connected to his big sister. Our daughter Tilla (Tillie) is named after my great-grandmother who had polio in a time before vaccination. She almost died, and never regained strength or mobility on the left side of her body. Her greatest sadness in life was that she could never hold all of her children. She would have known how we feel. Our son Keller is named for a chef. This may seem silly to many, but my husband and I developed an active food life together after we began dating. It is a passion of ours, like music or art is a passion to some. It is an homage to our marriage, and something very meaningful to us.
Each name has a story. Each name came to be in a moment of decisiveness, where one or more people said, “this is what we will call this life.” Even death cannot take that.