In the Old Testament, there was a method to naming children. If you look back, nearly every name that was mentioned had a specific meaning. The names were given with purpose and meaning, representing something so much more than simply a name. Today, we still use names to signify something, sometimes more often than others.
When my oldest son was born, my wife and I agreed on a first name that we both liked. There was no real meaning attached to it for us, it was more that we could actually agree on a name. His middle name was the name of my wife’s paternal grandfather though. We wanted to make sure that when we had kids, part of their name was a legacy, somehow connecting them to the generations gone by.
When my second son came along, we took a similar approach. Instead of simply picking a name that we liked, we found a family name that was meaningful to us. We borrowed his first name from an uncle of my father who was instrumental in his spiritual life. He preached the sermon at my father’s ordination service and acted as a spiritual mentor for him. He was the spiritual father that my dad had been missing all during his years of growing up. My second son’s middle name was also a family name.
My wife and I thought that we might be done having children after the second one, but God had other plans. While we weren’t planning, we weren’t preventing either. It turned out that my daughter came during an incredibly tumultuous time in our lives. Within months of my parents moving closer to us, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and we found out that we were having a third child. It was an incredibly emotional few weeks which became months and even years. Over the course of 2 years, I watched my mom decline and finally succumb to the horrible disease of cancer. Then, I watched my father die from a broken heart, both physically and emotionally.
Having had two boys, my wife and I decided that we wanted to find out whether we were having a boy or a girl. We hadn’t done that with either of our sons, but this time around, we wanted to find out what we were having. We were used to boys and wanted to know whether we were going to have to learn something new. It was with mixed emotions that I found out that we would be having a daughter.
Mom always wanted a daughter. She embraced both of her daughters-in-law with open arms and treated them just like her own. She loved them and was grateful for the care that they took of her sons. I hesitated to tell Mom that we were having a girl because we knew that her time was short and that she most likely wouldn’t meet her granddaughter, a girl that was her own flesh and blood through her son.
Once we found out that we were having a girl, we began the arduous task of coming up with a name. Funny, we had chosen girls names when we were expecting our first two children, but this time seemed so much harder, at least to me. We weren’t crazy about too many of the family girls’ names, so we tried hard to think through the process. We wanted to honor my mom in some way but the female names from that side of the family were just not ones that we fell in love with.
As we continued searching and seeking, we thought about first names and middle names again. My mom’s name was Irene, which means “peace.” We had both liked the name Chloe, which we came to find out meant “blooming.” We decided to take a non-traditional approach towards things and give our daughter three names. Together, the names would mean, “blooming peace and joy.”
How important that name came to be for us. The months after we chose that name were difficult. My mom died just two months before her granddaughter was born. My father’s health declined rapidly and we needed to find peace and joy in the midst of the tumult that had become our lives. Our little bundle of joy helped to provide just that.
While I wouldn’t say that she is a peaceful little girl, her name has come to mean so much to us. Over these two years, she has provided levity to our lives, reminding us of what’s important and how valuable our families are to us. She has made us laugh and she has summoned the mischievousness of my mom, who I tend to think is looking down and smiling every time that she does something which resembles her grandmother.
I will never forget the circumstances into which my daughter was born, her name will always help me with that. She has helped us to see life in the midst of death, peace in the midst of chaos, and joy in the midst of mourning. She’s helped us to realize the gift that she is to us, over and over again. I am so grateful that my wife and I took the time to think through her name, and the names of all of our children, for that matter. Each of them is unique in their own special way and the meaning in their names will always stand as a reminder to us of how special they really are.