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Say Their Names

This one is for anyone whose beloved has died: for parents who have lost children . . . for brothers and sisters who have lost parents . . . for immediate and extended family . . . for those close or far away. This one is for each of you who grieves the loss of a love.

Soon after my last blog was posted, I received a message from a friend—a woman who is no stranger to profound losses. She thanked me for intentionally saying some things “out loud” when I could have easily kept them intimately and silently inside. She liked that I’d written about embracing fully the moments life gives us rather than being consumed by its inevitable pain. She appreciated that I spoke about some gifts I’m still being given by one who died years ago, and that I said his name aloud . . . Matt.

Her words made it clear she realizes, like many of you, that saying aloud the name of a lost loved one—as well as hearing it said by others—is a proclamation of continuing, loving connection. It honors and strengthens the invisible ties that can forever bind us beyond death.

I can attest to the freedom a hurting heart feels when it opens to hearing, out loud, the name of a lost beloved. That joy compounds when others join in the speaking. It took me almost 8 lonely years to proclaim my son’s name aloud to others outside a small circle of family and friends. I had taught myself well how to wallow in the debris of grief, leaving behind my ability to call for help to celebrate his life.

But on one, beautiful April afternoon I sensed it . . . the timing and company were just right to let my pain go, to say Matthew’s name out loud, and to watch others smile because I was finally sharing a piece of my hidden heart. It was a time of vulnerability and of grace. We raised our glasses and toasted the birth and life of my boy . . . and finally this mother’s heart unfolded from itself.

Whose name do you want to say and hear aloud today? Who is no longer here, but endures, alive, in your heart? Whose life do you want others to celebrate with you? Who, every time he or she comes to mind, reminds you of love . . . of joy . . . of kindness . . . of grace?

Speak their names aloud. Say them with others who may have known them; say them to others who’ve never heard their names. Say them with radiant smiles and heartfelt tears. Speak their names out loud because they will always be your beloved.

Today my list is small but, oh, so meaningful; I’m speaking these names out loud as I write:

BILL – I love your chuckling, abundant laughter and your sweet affection for a tasty family dinner

DOROTHY – I love your supermom strength and how you made kindness come alive

MATT – I love your lifetime of smiling courage, gentle acceptance and nonjudgmental love

With abiding love,

your daughter, your mom




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