As she exits her car on a gorgeous summer day, you notice her immediately. “Hey, it’s that girl from work!!” says that little voice in your head. And as you inch ever closer to your car after a quick shopping spree, you now see her approaching you. She makes direct eye contact. “WOW!!” you think to yourself. Standing about 20 yards away from you is your biggest office crush! She looks so amazing that you feel like you could almost pass out. In the moment, you are thinking about how often you have interacted with her in the company break room……….laughing, joking around, telling stories, even a bit of harmless teasing. She is the girl that you dread to ever say something stupid around, or offend in any way. She loves Jesus. She talks to you about church all the time. You’ve even discussed Bible passages with her. She never talks about a boyfriend. And you haven’t seen a ring on her finger either. You are certain that she is “the one.” And, to top it all off………..the proverbial icing on the cake……… she just so happens to be ultra cute! You’ve thought about asking her out, but just haven’t found the right words yet (i.e. you are too scared to act). And now, this startling reality hits without warning: you are going to cross paths with her on the way back to your car, and there is no way to avoid it.
As she moves closer, you smile at her (probably a goofy one), so as to be friendly and lower her defenses a bit. Your heart starts thumping like you’re in Spain running with the bulls. The sheer magnitude of the moment is getting to you. After all, you have been praying for a godly wife, and now you think this might be a sign from God that she is the one. “How can I impress her?!” “What can I say when she approaches me??”
She smiles back as she recognizes you, totally clueless as to how nervous you are. But soon, you are going to have to………GULP………say something to her. She waves at you. You politely wave back, with your hand trembling profusely. This is not your average “I ran into someone today” kind of moment. This one is a big deal! You don’t want to screw up. So, you decide to just keep it simple. Your brain is screaming to you, “Just say ‘Hello’, followed by her name!!” That’s it. I’m a genius! Simple, but effective. It’s a cakewalk. She will just love it. You become overconfident. You start thinking about how important it is to remember people’s names, and how it’ll show her your amazing ability to remember the important details. Phhheeeewwww!! No problem, right? I mean, what could possibly go wrong now?? Like you said………cakewalk.
As we continue with part 3 of my series on ministering to parents of stillborn babies, I tackle the all-important topic of names. Just how much does it matter to a parent to hear the name of their baby spoken? Even if, and especially if, their baby is dead. And why does it matter so much in the first place? Let’s find out together……
Parents of stillborn babies want you to know………..
#3 We want you to use our baby’s name as much as possible. It is like beautiful music being played in our ears.
Tina, Tish, or Tricia??
Our parking lot friend (we’ll call him ‘Clueless Guy’ for now) is now just seconds away from his big moment with the office cutie.
She finally approaches him…….
Cute Girl From Work: Hey John! How are you?
Clueless Guy: Ummm….good…..good”
(your brain now frantically working in overdrive……….Tina????? NO. Wait……Tish????? NO. OH NO. God help me!!)
Then you try to stall her for a moment as you stutter through the next sentence……
Clueless Guy: Yeah, umm, I’m just- uhhh- getting some, ya know, shopping done.
(Brain still pacing crazy fast as you think to yourself…….is it Tricia???? YES, YES, That’s it!! Or wait, is it?? AARRGGHHH!!! I have to take a chance!! Right?? After all, she used my name. And I just know it’s Tricia anyway. I got this one. Thank you Lord!)
In the meantime, she is still awkwardly and patiently awaiting your next piece of conversational genius. As you look into the beautiful eyes of your hopefully future wife, you say…….
“Sooo……..how are you? And it’s…… Tricia, right?”
And just that quick, it is over. You feel so relieved! Time for a fist pump!
Until that is……..she answers you.
“Oh, I’m doing ok as well, but actually, my name is Tasha, not Tricia.”
<painfully awkward silence>
<pin is heard dropping>
Way to make an impression dude. Since she is a Christian, hopefully she forgives you. Just don’t say “Tricia” again when you see her in the break room Monday morning. That could be her breaking point. And you may want to wait before asking her out on that first date. Oh what pain we needlessly put ourselves through sometimes!
So What’s the Big Deal?
While the above “boy meets girl” scenario is fictitious and maybe even a bit exaggerated, some guys can probably relate to the terror. But the story is meant to demonstrate something very obvious. And it is this: What a pleasant sound it is to hear our name spoken………correctly! We expect it. We delight in it. Our name has great meaning to us, and the people we love. We often take it for granted when someone simply speaks our name. And when they don’t, we notice. And for good reason. We carry our names with us our entire lives. They automatically go with us wherever we go. They stay with us at every stage of life. They don’t change even when we change. We have heard it spoken so many times that, well, we just get used to it.
We are told to use people’s names often, especially for really important things. For job interviews, we are told to remember the interviewers name, and then repeat it back when shaking hands. On a first date, we are told to use his or her name a lot, sprinkling it through the conversation whenever possible. It shows that you are thinking about them, and not so much about yourself. When I gave my wedding vows, they had me repeat this phrase, “I, Jamie, take you, Leah, to be my lawfully wedded wife, etc.” And that is no accident either. Names have great meaning. And we can’t even escape them when we die. They show up on our tombstone. And in the memories of our loved ones, either for good or bad.
Happens to All of Us
All of us have trouble remembering others’ names from time to time. For example, we run into an old friend eating at the local Starbucks, and we cannot remember their name. So we just say “hello”, hoping they don’t notice our ignorance. And then, we go home racking our brains, trying to remember who they are. We go on a scavenger hunt with Facebook, looking to see if one of our friends is also friends with them. We ask other people who may also know this person. “Hey, do you remember ‘what’s his name’ from our flag football team? Ya know, the tall guy who could never hold onto a pass?! I saw him today at Starbucks! Do you remember his name? It’s driving me crazy!!” Or we see the same new person at church 5 weeks in a row, and it seems like every week we keep asking them the same question, “I’m sorry, I know we’ve already spoken a few times, but what is your name again?” We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Sometimes we just plain forget. It happens. Other times, we have simply failed to do our homework, and neglected to commit their name to our memory.
It is Like Music to Our Ears
The famous author Dale Carnegie once wrote, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Strong statement indeed. And there is some truth to what Carnegie is saying here. Yes, there is a sense in which hearing our own name is like music to our ears. We feel appreciative that someone took the time to learn it. We feel like people really care about us when they say our name, don’t we? We feel a deeper connection with them. The relationship moves from arms length to an all-out embrace. Lasting bonds of love are sparked with the simple use of someone’s name. Hearing our name spoken can turn a somewhat detached relationship into something more personal. Or a sour relationship into something sweet. Or it can even be the seed of a beautiful, romantic relationship eventually leading to marriage.
Going back to our story above (clueless guy in parking lot), think about how he must’ve felt when she remembered his name. And conversely, think about how she must’ve felt when he forgot her name! As our romantic feelings grow for someone, we cannot stop thinking about their name. We can’t wait to see them and say it back to them. And we can’t wait for them to speak our own name to us. This is the way it normally works. Our ladies man above, John, just happened to really mess things up. But that brings up a great point: If it’s important for a man to know (and speak) the name of a girl he is interested in, isn’t it safe to assume that parents delight even more in hearing the name of their baby boy or girl, whether dead or alive?
More Than a Statistic
Without the “name” dynamic in our relationships, we feel more like a statistic instead of a person. We feel more like an inanimate object instead of a person to be loved and respected. And who in their right mind wants that?! We are not to be treated like prisoners standing in a line holding a number. We are created to exist relationally with others, and part of that relationship involves the ongoing speaking of our names. Have you ever been somewhere and felt like you were just taking up space……….merely existing, and nobody noticed you? Horrible, isn’t it? And often times, just simply hearing someone call your name will cut through all of that perceived rejection.
So think about this for a moment. If it hurts us to feel like a statistic, imagine how a parent who has lost a baby feels when no one will use their baby’s name. We feel like our baby is being dishonored. We feel like no one understands our pain. And worse, we feel like people don’t care about our baby’s precious memory. Parents of stillborn babies especially have problems with this. Because very few people ever got to see their baby, those who did not rarely take the time to ask questions about the baby……i.e. their name, what they looked like, etc. Sometimes others will- albeit unintentionally- make our babies feel so impersonal. This kind of behavior just adds pain on top of pain.
Keeping Their Memory Alive
In my view, Dale Carnegie isn’t quite right when he says that a person’s own name is the sweetest sound for them to hear. He doesn’t completely capture the essence. For those who have lost babies or a child of any age for that matter, hearing the name of our little one is far more precious than hearing our own name. And I suspect that any parent would say this about their own children, whether or not their child is dead or alive. Compared to our own name, we would rather hear our baby’s name 100 times over. Why? Because our baby’s name is lovely to us, and brings back precious memories. Hearing their name paints an immediate picture of them in our minds. The way they looked when they came out of the womb……the color of their hair and eyes……..the collapsed skull……..the redness of their lips. The hugs. The cries. All of the pain. Yes, these are tragic memories for those of us grieving, but they are precious nonetheless. They are memories we never, ever want to forget. They are all we have on this side of heaven.
When I hear the name of my baby girl Ariana, it’s like a reflex. I don’t have to force myself to conjure up the past. Everything just comes flooding back with the mere mention of her name. It’s like when a doctor tests your reflexes. He can poke all these different areas of your knee, and you have no reaction whatsoever. But then, he hits that one spot, and your leg springs out at warp speed. You can’t control it. I might hear a hundred names every single day. Some of them will produce no emotion, and some will produce minimal. It all depends on the type of relationship I had with a person of the same name. But a child-parent relationship? Priceless. Absolutely priceless. For me, there’s always that one name that will capture my heart every time. And when people say “Ariana”, it sounds like this to me….. ARRR-EEEE-AAAHHHNNN-UUUHHH. It probably sounds slower to me when I hear it. Slower than it is typically pronounced. It’s because I am attempting to savor the moment. For those of you who are parents of stillborn babies, you know what I am talking about. What name brings you such priceless joy?
And when you hear that name, it’s like being transported back in time, isn’t it? You can almost feel like you are in the delivery room again, staring at and holding your baby. I am not talking about some weird, mystical experience here. It’s just that the emotion of thinking about it can be so powerful sometimes. It was over 15 years ago for me, and I can still vividly remember so many things about that day. And all of it can be triggered by hearing the name “Ariana.” I don’t even have to work hard at it. The floodgates are wide open, producing memories that I cannot imagine living without. I don’t ever want to forget that precious little girl. And neither does any other parent of a stillborn baby. If I ever lose my mind to old age or disease, I pray that I never forget even one single memory of her.
Poet Jessica Blade captured this feeling quite well when she penned these beautiful words……..
I wrote your name in the sky,
but the wind blew it away.
I wrote your name in the sand,
but the waves washed it away.
I wrote your name in my heart,
and forever it will stay.
Most of us love to hear our name spoken. It isn’t being prideful. It is how we are created. God created us to respond to names. So when parents hear the name of their baby spoken out loud, we understand that great significance is being attached to our precious little one. To be sure, the name itself isn’t what gives our babies value. Their value comes from God Almighty, being created in His image and likeness. But using their name is one way of acknowledging the value they already have.
Hearing our baby’s name reminds us the love that is already in our hearts. It doesn’t create the love. Hearing it spoken can never hurt us, but only help us. Sure, it may bring tears. It may bring sadness. But that is part of the grieving process, a process which never ends on this side of heaven. We know that joy awaits those of us who are trusting in Jesus!
And believe me, if we could hear the greatest concerto the world has ever known, it would never come close to the feeling we get when we hear the name of our precious little one. Our babies have a name. And we love their name, because it reminds us of them. Our babies are more than just a statistic. They are more than just a Birth Certificate with some numbers attached to it. They are more than just a distant memory.
They are a body and soul created to live forever and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, the Name above all names.
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