A recent post on Glow in the Woods – in fact, as of right now it’s still the main, home page post – touches on a topic that is near to my heart: what to name a child you know (or believe) is likely to die?
Anderson’s name is very special to me. In our family, the firstborn boy is always given a name starting with the letter A, and we wanted a name that also reflected my Norwegian/Scottish background. Anderson was the most perfect name, as it also meant “brave and strong,” which our boy was for those days he fought to live. Additionally, Anders is a family name on my spouse’s side, so we were also honoring that. If we are lucky enough to have a second child some day, I don’t know how we’ll ever find such a perfect, special name again. Some days, it devastates me that we gave him such a wonderful, perfect name, and we’ll never really get to use it. In one of my first posts, I wrote about this very thing.
Another commentor on the Glow post, though, had such a beautiful reflection on her daughter’s name that I asked her if I could share it with you all on my blog. Below, the magical words of Mrittika, who gave her lost child such a very special name, and has such a unique outlook on the naming process. I would love to hear your thoughts (and hopefully Mrittika will visit to see them as well!). She writes:
“I came to glow after weeks today and saw this beautiful post from you. I have said to you before how I love your children’s names. I think they are perfect, just like your little ones. I also adore the way your daughter’s name carries a derivative of Joseph’s name. Her middle name completes her first name, and makes it lyrical.
Inasmuch as I long to write about and read about the grief and associated feelings we have around our loss, this post about names really struck a chord with me, since Raahi’s name, and our naming of her, is the core of her story.
My second post on Glow’s For One and All forum, in August 2013, was about my children’s names. For me, our whole life lies in those names. Raahi’s story is in her name, since her name means an explorer, one on a journey. When I named my unborn daughter back in 2006, without knowing if I would ever have a daughter, it was sudden. The word Raahi, not a common word or name, and not even from my mother tongue, just came to me one day, and I thought that it encapsulated my husband and my essence in it so well. My husband and I, who had made home in three continents by then, adopting each one, loving each country and its people like we belonged there, are true Raahi-s. I thought that if one strips us of our education, our material possessions, our backgrounds, and just takes us as individual human beings, Raahi is one word which would qualify us. We are explorers, always on a journey, always on an adventure, and yet, belonging to the roads like it is our home. So it would be perfect that the daughter I had always wanted would be named Raahi, our core.
I did not know then, that much more than carrying us in her name, Raahi, who would come to me exactly 7 years later, would carry her own essence in her name. A Raahi in oriental culture, is a spiritual vagabond, you know. She travels on, coming and going per her own schedule, living in one place, taking some from the place, leaving some of herself behind. She is on a spiritual journey, with no real home. The journey is the essence, there is really no destination, no resting place.
Raahi came three weeks before schedule, on a morning when her Baba was not with me. It is even more poignant, since he was supposed to arrive that morning, but his bus from Columbus the previous night was cancelled, and he was coming in that evening instead. My Ma was supposed to fly in from India a week later on May 2, since we knew by then Raahi would need a surgery soon after being born, and someone would need to be home with her big brother. My c-section was scheduled for May 14, and it would give my mother enough time to settle down and get over her jet lag. But Raahi arrived on April 25, per her own time, not waiting for her Dimma (Grandma), or Baba. My husband had to cancel the bus and book a flight, so he could be there for her birth in the afternoon, but that morning, of waking up in bed soaking wet, of frantically calling the doctor and then friends to take care of Aahir, of getting Aahir ready for school and then driving him there, and then driving to the hospital and checking in, was my little girl telling me she is not here to fit into our stories, but to write her own.
Raahi’s three months with us was without any pattern. She was an easy baby, never demanding attention, watching the world with her big bright eyes, making eye contact with everyone who came near, turning around to look at those who called her name, and everyone at the NICU said to me she is special, she is winning many hearts. But her health was very unpredictable. Every time she had consistent ups, and we began to trust her health, she would have a really low down. That is also true to being a Raahi, in their resting place, Raahi-s don’t follow the rules, don’t let anyone really understand them or take them for granted.
Raahi left per her own rule, too. She left in a hotel, a temporary living space, almost a roadside inn. She spared me the pain of having to live in a home where she once lived, and now does not, since we had still not moved into the new home after our move with her for my husband’s new job. She baffled everyone, us, the doctors, and while we believed in her perfect medical reports and numbers, she quietly fell asleep, never to wake up again.
I now know that Raahi knew me from a distant past, maybe a different life, a different time. I always think of her as someone on her eternal journey, and us as her companions who need to catch up with her. I do believe she was here on earth, on one of her many stops, a temporary resting place, where she arrived at her own will, and from where she left at her own will, taking some of us, leaving a part of herself behind. My husband and I did not create her, it is she who integrated us into her journey. She is a part of our story, but more than that, we are a part of hers. When I named her Raahi in 2006, and re-named her after we found out we were having a girl, I thought of her as the core of our story. I had not thought more about what a Raahi signifies then. Now I know how each part of her life, her arrival, her stay, her departure, all fits a Raahi to the dot of the i. She made me think deeply about a Raahi. She has indeed taken me on the most spectacular, out of this world journey I could ever be on.
Her name is integrated into her big brother Aahir’s as well. If you write their name one after the other in a circle, they are neverending. AAHIRAAHIRAAHI. It is also so apt that Aahir’s symbol for her (as well as for himself), is that of a train. My earlier post about them being the train brother and sister is also another page of this story of a journey, of walking, running, flying together, from one station to the next.
And Raahi’s nickname was Toa, or the flowing waters, a river. Again, a flow, a movement, a journey. I often wonder if I named my daughter away. I penned her destiny with her names. But then I think, no, SHE wrote her story, and her story does not end with her life. It is larger than life. She will walk on, flow on, and her journey will last longer than this life. Her playing field is bigger than this world.
I too don’t know where in the AAHIRAAHI equation another baby’s name will fit, if ever another baby comes. But I’ll think about it then. I only know that if we ever have another baby, s/he will have Raahi as his/her middle name. Raahi is actually an androgynous word in Urdu, the language it comes from, so it can be a boy’s name too. We’ll figure it out when and if the time comes.
Raahi, the person, my beautiful daughter, and her name, were perfect, too perfect to be true, too perfect to exist, maybe.”