It happened again. Someone I just met asked me how many children I have. I hate it when this happens. Not because I’m afraid to speak her name. Because the response is always so unpredictable. But is it? Don’t most people either stare in silence, not knowing what to say, or mutter, “I’m sorry,” and then turn away or change the subject? Very few times will this new acquaintance engage in a conversation about her. In fact, most often, the person will not even engage in conversation about my living children once I have mentioned her name. Even when they are asking other people around me about their children. It’s almost as if I fall off the map, out of their radar, once I mention her name.
But you see, I have to include her. I have to say her name. Not just because she’s my child. Not just because I love her. Because she is making a difference. Her name is embroidered on SleepSacks. Her name is the title of a 5K. Her name was written about in a recent newspaper article. Her name means something. Why would I keep her name quiet?
For me not to say her name, not to include her alongside her siblings, would almost be hypocritical. I created a fund in her name, but I’m afraid to tell people about her? I admit, in the early days, weeks, months and even the first year, it was hard to speak her name to new people. I was too sensitive to the reaction from others. Unfortunately, I’m growing accustomed to people’s reactions and I’m the one caught off guard when they respond with interest. It was easier to not say her name and forgive myself later, than to speak her name and fall apart emotionally. Something in me has changed. I want to speak her name. I want to tell people about her and all the wonderful things her name is doing.
I know it makes people uncomfortable. I know it catches people off guard. Someday, our society will move past the uncomfortableness of death. Someday, I will speak her name to someone new and they will say, “Tell me about Kyleigh.”