We choose names. We choose nicknames. We do this for ourselves and others. Other people choose names for us.
Think about it for a moment, what are your names? How many names have you had throughout your life?
I have had lots of nicknames throughout my life, some I've kept because I liked them and they fit. Some I discarded. I have grown into my full given name, though I struggled as a kid with my middle name, a family French name, DeLoach. I struggled with it because it could be made into cruel nicknames. However, as I got older and started learning French, I became proud of my name and my heritage. I learned of my French Huguenot background, that we are from Loches, etc.
When I became pregnant, I had the opportunity to name my child. That honor and privilege of picking a name and passing down heritage and meaning. The name I chose for my child connected to a grandparent and an aspect of life that had truly saved my kid. I almost added one other grandparent's name in there, but that would have been a mouthful. I often just used the initials too and the kid was known by those two letters for many years.
Nicknames came from friends, from school. There was even one nickname that came from a cartoon in elementary school and stuck through middle school. It was a fun nickname that we all used.
The conversation with us about changing names began sometime in middle school. What I learned was that names had already been researched and thought out. There were several names that had been considered. What I appreciated most about this process of research and choosing a name was that I saw in my kid the desire to find that name that fit and was meaningful going forward.
The chosen name? Charlie.
Charlie started off high school with a new name, but we didn't make it officially legal until the following summer. That was a special celebration for us as a family to celebrate the legal name change.
It was also a paperwork hassle as I then had to send or take copies of the document to every place where I needed the name to be changed. I'm not sure I have the name changed everywhere yet, but we've covered the major bases.
For Charlie, these were and are exciting times. Charlie researched names, went through several names, and picked out this name and now is living into it. It was a blessing to be invited on that journey with Charlie because some of the names were shared with me along the way and I was able to be part of the discussion.
For me, it has been a time of grieving and letting go. You see, I too had picked out a name that was meaningful to me. But that name no longer fit. It was uncomfortable in many ways. I had to come to the understanding that it was only a name and that I could let it go. I still have this super awesome, wonderful kid.
Yet, there are moments in which I grieve. Last summer as I was packing to go the the Fellowship of United Methodists Spiritual Directors and Retreat Leaders (FUMSDRL) retreat, Charlie and I came across my hospital band. It had the child's name on it. I burst out in tears as Charlie put it around my wrist because it represented a different time.
Fast forward a few days when I was at the retreat. Frank Rogers' theme for us was compassion-- God's compassion for us and compassion we have for others. My spirit was restless on this one day, I think it was the first day of the retreat. During our breakout and contemplation time, I went back to my room. Then, I felt nudged to get back outside on the property. It was as if God was telling me there was something I needed to see. I wandered around the property noticing the beautiful flowers, bees, birds, etc.
And then, I stumbled upon the garden. Charlie's Garden. There it was. A big, literal sign. Charlie's garden. I stood there crying. The tears flowed. It was like the passing of the baton from the hospital bracelet to this sign. Somehow this sign gave me assurance, encouraged me, made me smile; it even made me chuckle a little bit. You see, I had been in this same spot a year before. Every year we hold our face to face board meetings at the place where the retreat will be. I didn't remember this sign. We were already using the name Charlie, but somehow it didn't stick or I didn't even see it. But when I needed it most, I saw it.
And to be associated with a garden for a kid who loves plants, well that was an extra bonus!
In the back of my mind, I've been waiting for a picture to show up in my Facebook feed on the Facebook memories. I knew it would be coming soon but I didn't remember the exact day. It showed up recently and jump started these thoughts. The picture of Charlie's garden from last year's FUMSDRL retreat at the Cenacle in Houston, Texas.
When it came across my feed, I felt gratitude for the literal sign. From time to time I still grieve the loss of a name I chose. It was meaningful. I'm learning to let go. Letting go is an ongoing practice in my life, especially in this second half.
I don't know if any of this touches any aspect of your journey, but I do hope you find encouragement here.
Blessings on the journey,