Sunday, September 4, 2016

Have You Ever Wanted to Change Your Name? (What's in a Name, Part 2)

When I married almost eleven years ago, I was very excited to take my husband’s name, to be identified with him and to let the whole world know that Meade and Mary Elizabeth are a unit.

However, having a southern, double name, I was faced with a predicament.  Which of my names would I drop?  Maybe it was youth or naivetĂ©, but I decided to heed the advice of someone who claimed that a person could really only have three names, that it was much too complicated to have four names on official government forms, employee documents, and the like.  (Which is pretty hilarious in its own way now, considering the lack of paying jobs I have had in the past eleven years!)  Therefore, I felt I had no choice but to drop my maiden name, Warren.  After all, I could not give up Mary or Elizabeth.  My family was supportive, and life went on… now as Mary Elizabeth Stone. 

As most of you know, Meade and I were thrilled to welcome our identical twin boys, John and Warren, a few years later in January of 2009.  We were smitten with them and with the names we had lovingly selected for them, although we let about 24 hours pass before assigning the names to each child.  William “Warren” was named for my father (and grandfather, brother, and other family members on both sides).  I cherished being able to honor my father in this way and to have a child to carry on this rich legacy of faith, character, and devotion.  I have always been grateful for my family of origin, and it felt fitting to utilize my maiden name in such a special way. 

We were devastated when Warren went home to be with the Lord at only 19 days “new,” and even more devastated (if possible) to find out a month or so later that his death was caused by a medical error rather than his underlying condition.  Grief is always complicated, but this just felt like too much to bear. A gaping, torturous hole was left in our hearts, newly acquired minivan, and home set up for twins; we may not have made it if it were not for sweet "John" Meade. 

 John, 4.5 months old

For those of you who have experienced grief and loss (which is each one of us, being human and living in a broken world), you understand that the grieving process is truly a process.  It is not endured only to be conquered, once and for all. It comes in waves, cycles, bursts, surprises, routines, holidays, and anniversaries.  In a sense, grief takes on new life with fresh and even joyful experiences, such as the pregnancy and birth of a new child or moving to a new home yet leaving another behind that held precious memories you fear will now forever be water under the bridge. 

Oftentimes, we must get through the initial crisis in any way we can (usually with the prayer, help, and support of many loved ones) before we can truly engage with these other complex facets of grief that remain or seemingly pop up out of the blue. Before the deep and enduring realities of loss settle in. 

       “I don’t think any of us can tell our most vulnerable stories in the moment they occur for fear that they may undo us.  We have to wait until we are in a season of safety before we can open up our deepest wounds…
        Perhaps like Mary after the birth of Jesus, I had needed to ponder these things in my heart, wrestle with them, and offer them to God before I offered them to anyone else.”

One of these deeply painful layers for me was that I lost my name and this special honoring of my father when we lost our son.  Of course, I realize that Warren is not lost to the Lord, that we still have a son named William Warren and always will.  But, the grief of not having that little boy with that specific name here and now presented an additional grief burst after the early trauma and tears had subsided. 

I was sick over this and even wrote a letter to my dad explaining my anguish…. for him, for me, for us all.  Additionally, I was distraught that my own name no longer contained “Warren.”  Well, in this life, there are certain things that we can do something about – and changing your name is one of them! 

As we discussed in What’s in a Name, Part 1, there is power and significance in a name.  As we observe from the Bible, names can speak life and healing. We also see how names can be amended or changed (for example, Simon to Peter or Saul to Paul).  Names are a chief source of identification and worth, a way we imitate our Creator God.  Moreover, a name can serve as a way to remember – a banner we give our children, for example, to proclaim what the Lord has done in our families and how He has carried us through different seasons. 

Approximately two years after Warren’s death, I made the choice to break the random, self-imposed, three-name maximum rule and to engage the lengthy, yet empowering and healing, process of adding Warren back into my name.  I will never forget walking down the steps of the Virginia Beach courthouse that day, with official, signed documents in hand.  I felt more “myself,” more whole and complete in some way.  I had done something about my grief, something that wasn’t necessarily convenient and certainly not quick.  However, in the effort and process of becoming Mary Elizabeth Warren Stone, God delivered a significant piece of my healing. I was once again honoring my family that so lovingly raised me but, more significantly and for the first time in this way, I was getting to honor my precious son a couple years after we ushered him into the arms of Jesus. 

I still smile and swell with pride, the positive, freeing, hopeful kind, whenever I think of my name, my son Warren, and the impact he has forever made on my life and for God’s Kingdom.  I see my “new” name as an ebenezer, a marker of one of the many ways God has given me significant pieces of healing along the way.  A sign of hope that additional healing will keep on coming for us all (See: Let Them Eat Cake).   

     “It is only in releasing ourselves, giving ourselves fully over to the pain, and riding its cleansing wave that we find new life…   
      It’s okay to feel it.  It’s okay and it’s necessary, it’s holy and good work.” 

I am incredibly grateful we serve a God who enables us to actively partner with our grief.  To truly make beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3).  With our King and in His economy, life always comes from death.  We do not have to fear that the grief may overtake us if we lean into it and when we certainly feel overcome by it… wondering what, if anything, will remain.  

Instead, we can lean in with hope, trusting that, despite the depths of our mourning, we will never be lost to God.  Not even the greatest loss can snatch us out of His hands.  As we lean into our grief and take an active role, we are given beauty and meaning that serves as a healing balm for our hearts.  Grief doesn’t need to be swept under the carpet to eek out its days, hidden yet very much alive in its original, raw, and incredibly painful form.  Instead, the darkness can be faced and then, through time and God’s grace, transformed into pure glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).

“But He knows the way that I take;
    when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold…
I am not silenced by the darkness,
    by the thick darkness that covers my face.”
-Job 23:10,17

 Stone family does Staycation Labor Day weekend!  Cabela's and Waffle House... obviously.
John is now 7.5, Daniel is 5, Andrew is 2.5, and Michael turns 1 on the 11th!

Stay tuned for: A Forever Name (What’s in a Name, Part 3)

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful post, Mary Elizabeth. When Warren passed, I noted and grieved the loss of that name for you, too. How wonderful to read about your recovery of it, here. Thank you for sharing.