I Call Your Name

I hear my voice.  I hear my words.  I cannot stop:

“As my Mother always said…”

“My Dad thought…”

“Wouldn’t she have gotten a kick out of that?!”

I hear myself saying these words and I see my friends’ expressions. Their eyes dart quickly; they look away.

Uh oh…

She is talking about her Mom again. What will happen next? 

Will she implode…?

I see my friends look to the side; at their feet; at each other.  I know they want to change the subject.  But for me, just saying their names gives me great comfort.  It is not enough to say their names silently; to keep them secreted away.  I have to say their names out loud.  Because for just that sliver of a moment, as I say their names out loud,

They are gone;

They are not gone;

They are but a memory;

They are standing right here.

Before my mother died, I did not know that names had magical powers. A few weeks after her death, I got my first clue.

A friend had arranged for a Mass in honor of my Mother, and on a brisk Sunday morning, my husband and I walked the four blocks down Lexington Avenue to the local Catholic Church.

I had no expectations; I felt an obligation to be there. I could have ignored the buzzing alarm clock.

Or not set the alarm at all.

Even though it was weeks after her death, I was still numb; every step was difficult; every day was exhausting.

And then I heard her name.

As the Mass began, a distinct, sonorous voice filled the church: “This celebration of the Mass is in honor of the life of Louise Bonner Swift.”

And later in the prayers, the priest again proclaimed: “and for Louise whom we remember here today.”

And while I am sure the other congregants didn’t notice, the priest said it and I heard it, loud and clear.

I knew the ritual of the Mass. I had experienced this moment thousands of times before. I must have heard countless names from the altar, but they had been lost on me. Not anymore. 

I heard her name and I felt lighter.  I felt stronger.  It was inexplicable. I actually felt joy for the first time in weeks.

And later, I remembered.

I remembered that after my father died, my Mom wouldn’t stop talking about him.  It seemed like everywhere we went, she kept saying his name.

“As Mike always said…” 

“Mike thought… ” 

“Wouldn’t Mike get a kick out of that?!”

And one day, I had heard enough. I got mad at her. “Stop already.  Please.  He is dead.  Stop talking about him.”

As I think back, I cannot fathom how hurt she must have been.

She turned to me, “Don’t you miss him?  You never say anything.  Don’t you miss him?”

“Oh, Mama,” I protested, exasperated; “How do you not know?  Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him!  Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him! Not a day goes by that I don’t want him back!

“Well,” she responded,” you never say a word.”

And then she stopped saying his name, at least around me; at least not as frequently.

As I write those words today, I cannot believe how wrong I was.

And now, I know.  It must have given you so much comfort to say his name.

And now, as my friends look sideways, they must want to say to me what I said to you.

But now, I know.  It gives me so much comfort to say his name; to hear your name, out loud.

And so I promise:

I will call your name.  And I will not stop.

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4 thoughts on “I Call Your Name

  1. Your posting really spoke to me. I talk with and about my Mother all the time. I even post on her Facebook page!!! These connections are so very comforting. Thank you for your posts.

  2. Your words are so true. My husband and I often quote his parents and my mom…their favorite sayings (“We’ll have to play it by ear”…”It’s a bad situation”) that might have made us crazy as kids, but now resonate with us as we’ve grown older. We often say that no one is “gone” as long as we quote them, invoke their names. It’s really a blessing to keep their names and words with us.

  3. Your words spoke to me in this entry. It has been 22 years since my Father passed and I still quote him and hear his voice. As I have aged, his voice becomes louder in my head and he often appears in my dreams, the most vivid one, 15 years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer. Thank you for verbalizing many of my thoughts about this subject, especially now as my Mother is very old and has illness and we know the reality.

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