Precious Names – Silent

{3 months ago today we lost our angels}

Every parent experiences the joy and challenge of picking out a name for their child. Try picking out three at once! It doesn’t seem like it should be a monumental task considering tons of people have more than three children. But trying to come up with names that don’t sound too alike or don’t have too many of the same letters – or don’t sound like the dog and cats is a challenge indeed. Either I liked one that he didn’t or vice versa. One evening we were contemplating names (New Year’s Eve actually) and Nate responded to my suggestion, “It’s not my first choice” … I paused and replied, “Is it your third choice?!” That soon became our go-to question/joke when debating names.

We had one name figured from the start it seems, Elliot. I’m not sure where it came from really but we both liked it – our boy name. Elliot has a special connection for me because it combines two very special names. My Great Grandma Eleanor (Nora is named after her as am I and my mom). Elliot also “says” the name Leigh when you say it. El-LEIGH-ot. Leigh is Papa Joe’s (Nate’s Dad) middle name. Elliot’s name honors all of his grandparents in this way.

The girl names were a challenge as well. This came as a surprise since we had a huge list of names that we both liked still left from when we were naming our daughter, Nora. Somehow none of them seemed quite right or were too similar to the boy names we were liking. So we kept going through them. It seemed every time we watched something on TV we looked through the credits to see if something new popped up.

Eventually we settled on one girl name, Alexis. I’ve always loved the name Alex for a boy but I loved the idea of this version for a girl. We wanted to use it as her full name with the option of calling her Lexi as we loved that too. We even debated naming her with that shortened option all together but in those last moments of decision Alexis just fit best. We realized we’d never be able to have a nickname. Her middle name was after Mommy’s middle name which is the only family connection for her.

And then there was our second baby girl name. For a long time we never knew if we had two girls and a boy or two boys and a girl. We weren’t sure how long to battle over the choice. We had some we liked and that seemed good enough for the time. We had “plenty of time” to make that decision.

Then came our 20 week ultrasound where we learned that Baby A had spina bifida and a host of other problems. Life sort of stood still. We were being prepared by the doctors that she might not survive. Our lives seemed upside down and it was hard to focus on a name for this baby when it seemed we’d so quickly have to give her up. I remember talking about this with my own mother and her words will never leave me, “She’s still your daughter.” Somehow the word “daughter” made her more real to me and yet I had no name for her. Soon after, life stopped moving completely as I was admitted to the hospital and we weren’t sure what was happening.

The more important task seemed focusing on resting and staying still and keeping pressure off of my cervix. I was no longer with Nate for leisurely conversations regarding what our daughter’s name would be. We now knew for sure that we had two girls and a boy. That made the choice easy with a name for each boy and girl from the top of the list – but still no choice for Baby A.

So here comes the honest part that I wrestle with still. Baby A wasn’t named until a few short hours before she was born. When we knew that she was coming – and would not survive – we were faced with the reality that this girl must have a name – and now. Nate and I had a few moments alone to discuss things and we both came to the same choice, Alice. It went along with our favorite middle name. It was set. And we knew it was a name we’d never be saying to our child on Earth. We struggled with the name Alice for a long time earlier in our name debates. My great-aunt was like a grandmother to me and her name was Alice, a very special woman who I imagine giggling with my girl in Heaven. The hard part – she wrote a book with an entire chapter dedicated to how she hated her name! So – do I name my child after her knowing that? ha! I guess we did. Nate came home one day long ago loving the name Ali – and we had discussed that as a nickname for Alice. Ali and Lexi fit well together. So when we had to make the quick choice – it fit and it just was right at the moment.

Middle names. They’re another tough one at times. We quickly came to a first choice for a boy middle name, Nathan (after Daddy). Our girl middle name was also an easy first choice with Mae (after Great Grandma Sally as well as a Great Great Grandma on my maternal grandfather’s side). We imagined Alexis Mae but when we named Alice it seemed to fit best for her.

So now we needed another middle name for Alexis. For a long time I had the name “Hope” in my head as a middle name but Nate wasn’t sure about it. My aunt Linda passed away a few short weeks before my children and my mom gave a beautiful message at her funeral. Linda’s best friend was her dog Hope and when mom read the definition of the word it just stuck with me. It did seem odd to consider the name since it currently resides with a dog but the word itself was the very thing I was clinging to with my situation. Somehow it never crossed my mind on that day and Marie just sort of came out and that’s what it was. My middle name. By this time it was evident that she would also not survive and there was not time for discussion. Like Alice’s name – it just was.

I struggle daily with their names. Every single thing associated with them I struggle with. Writing them. Seeing them. Saying them. Hearing another child with their name. Knowing I’ll never sing happy birthday to them. If I have to say them out loud I stutter. After so many months picking the perfect name for a child I can’t hold – they physically hurt me. I’m praying with time that gets easier but for now – they hurt. I look to the day that I can hold them in my arms again and find joy in saying their names. And I pray that Aunt Alice is pleased that another little girl has her name. I imagine she wears it well.

Hoping to write more some day about WHO those little names were to me and wishing that when the credits roll at the end of a movie I could stop reading them.

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4 thoughts on “Precious Names – Silent

  1. I like the story behind your naming your babies, though it is tough to read. I think of Auntie Alice when I read Alice Mae’s name. I wanted to name Jazlyn a blend of her name and grandma’s name, Alicellyn, but Bob was against naming after family. Maybe one day I’ll have the chance to name a girl that… or maybe a cat. There are so many in heaven that I miss right now. My mom, Alice, grandparents, and your babies. My heart groans with you to be there with them. But know that because of Jesus, we have Hope (and I’m not talking about the dog ) to one day be reunited in Heaven and all our tears will be wiped away and we will never mourn again! Until then a painful life is our journey, but I try to remember that even though the storms of our lives are some of our greatest blessings! I love you, dear cousin. You are one of the strongest women I know!

  2. You’ve got me thinking about names (again) and how they make connections with those who have gone before, those we did not get to know in this life. There are layers upon layers of connection! I was so thrilled when I saw that you had picked the name Alice Mae for Baby A. For me it called to mind so many more than just my mother Alice (whose middle name was Marie, by the way) …I also thought of the cousin Alice Mae who you never knew (and did not intentionally honor) … and I thought of her mother Mabel (Alice Mae was a combined way of honoring both my mom & Aunt Mabel). Then I remembered that my mom Alice was given a popular English form of HER grandmother’s name, Elise – and though my mom may not have liked her own name, I think she liked the connection it made with a grandmother she never knew. Strangely, I don’t think I’d really made the connection between the names Ellen and Eleanor before you brought it up … and so Eleanor was named to honor HER mother Ellen. I have always liked knowing that I shared the middle name Ellen with 2 cousins (Jane & Corine) in honor of Grandma Ellen (who died a month after I was born). [There are also 3 male cousins who share the middle name Benson – James, Jon, and Ross … oh, and your uncle Bob is an honorary ‘Benson’ since that’s what Jim & Jon call him!]
    All this reminds me that little Alice Mae, Alexis Marie, and Elliot Nathan are welcomed in heaven by the whole communion of saints … and especially the generations of their own family – not just Alice, but Alice Mae and Mabel and Eleanor and Ellen and Elise and all the countless others on all branches of the family tree! – and they are not only connected by names, but by the love of God in Christ. Each week in church, I lead the congregation to pray for ‘the communion of saints’ – I find it important – both comforting and challenging – to remember those of all the generations before us who have passed down the faith by word and example (the challenge is in living up to their example!). Well, enough of the rambling…

    • YES Janet! I actually wrote this post a long time ago and have just now had the strength to post it. Mom told me about Alice Mae (Mabel’s daughter) after I wrote this and I forgot to add that to the post – although it was not a part of our decision making since I didn’t know about her! I didn’t know/remember that aunt Alice’s middle name was Marie until you said it just now which is pretty cool. I guess Alexis has a sweet tie there too. And yes – did you realize that my name is also connected in that way to all the women in my family? Ellen, Eleanor Jane, Jane Ellen, Janelle Marie (my first name combines Jane and Ellen and my middle name is Lilly’s middle name – which I also forgot to mention above), then Nora Jane. And now Alice Mae and Alexis Marie tying into the beautiful web of women in both my extended family and Nathan’s. And I love that Elliot is tied to his daddy, papa, and great-grandma. There’s just something about that bond that I love and have cherished myself for so many years – having never known my grandma Eleanor. And knowing that my own middle name ties to Alice is pretty sweet too. Now I’M rambling. Thank you so much for sharing Janet. I was hoping you would read this. I’d love to know more about the other Alice Mae – it was no surprise to God that they share a name.

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