Say Their Names

A man is not dead while his name is still spoken. Terry Pratchett

Soon after Jimmy died, the ugly reality of all that was lost started to overwhelm me. Never again would Jimmy call me on the way home from a religious studies class, brimming with excitement about what he’d just learned. Never again would my favorite cinephile text me the name of a new indie film that he wanted us to see the next time we were together. Never again would my full grown son drop into my lap, wrap his arms around me and say, “I love you … so much.”

Anyone who’s lost someone dear to them knows that these blows and horrible realizations just keep coming for months, if not years. We are prepared to a certain extent for the more obvious losses — one less chair at the Thanksgiving table, no graduations or grandchildren, no longer being able to call Mom about our crises or our triumphs. Crushing? Absolutely. But at least for me, it’s the small, ordinary moments lost that bring the most pain. Black holes and silence. So much silence.

That’s what makes the people who lean into that darkness so special. The ones who remember our loved ones long after they’re gone. The ones who send us a text or note when they are reminded of our dead beloved. The ones who continue to say their names.

Susie standing on Pikes Peak wearing her JimmySTRONG shirt

Photo of Jimmy in his Stanford bike jersey wearing his LIVESTRONG cap, posted on Creative Counseling's Facebook page with the quote "Life is so beautiful. Life is so hard." Kate Bowler

When you say our loved one’s names, you aren’t reminding us that our son, our mother, our brother is dead. We’re already thinking about them all the time. What you’re doing is telling us that you’re thinking about our beloveds, too. That our loved ones matter. That you remember them still.

Say their names. Ask about how they lived, who they were, what they loved. The greatest gift you can give a grieving soul is to help make sure their loved ones’ names are still spoken.

Photo of Jimmy wearing a yellow sweatshirt standing in the middle of a field of sunflowers with a message from Howard about how much he misses him.



Leave a Reply
Please read our Community Posting Guidelines before posting a comment.

  • Hilda says:

    Yes, I love to hear my daughter’s name. So often it seems that others forget our loved ones lived seeing only that they died they leave us alone. I’ve asked her friends to share their memories or even how they met my girl and I get nothing but the sound of crickets or someone asking why bother since she is dead now. It breaks my heart all over again. Michelle’s momma forever

    • Margo Fowkes says:

      I’m so sorry to hear that, Hilda. I can understand how that silence would shatter you all over again. Those stories and memories are such a gift after our children die. I think sometimes other people don’t understand that for us, there are no new memories. If your heart can handle it, keep asking as you think of others who knew Michelle and might be willing to share. I’ve heard some sweet stories from people that may not have known Jimmy well but had one encounter that stayed with them. I wish I had some protection I could provide for you against those who make hurtful comments. I don’t, sadly, but I will walk with you, hand in hand, hold your heart close to mine and say Michelle’s name ❤️

    • RememberKala says:

      I proudly and loudly say her name….

      I SO understand. I chose the “screen name” of RememberKala on a website for grieving mothers for that very reason. I NEED people to say her name! She STILL matters! She STILL IS!

      Tight, understanding hugs my friend~

      • Margo Fowkes says:

        Kala, Kala, Kala. I love that her name is your screen name. Not only does it encourage people to say her name, it gives them permission to say her name. It lets everyone know that you welcome hearing Kala’s name spoken and that you want to hear stories and memories or have those of us who didn’t know her ask questions about your beautiful, amazing daughter. It’s a gift. Thank you, my friend.

  • error: Our content is protected.