Today someone (who knows a little bit about Matthew) asked me how I came up with the names Joel and Fredrik. I can’t even begin to describe how badly this hurt. I wasn’t the least bit angry with this person, rather I was just sad. But I didn’t act sad. Instead I proceeded to cheerfully answer the question, giving a bit of detail about how I came up with each of their names…
“I like traditional names, especially for boys. Joel is traditional, biblical. I like many biblical names, although I wouldn’t use Ezekiel or Job. Joel isn’t too common, isn’t too uncommon either. We know a few successful, likable, older Joels… Fredrik is traditional too, though it isn’t biblical. We went a bit crazy with him, using the two-syllable, Swedish spelling. No one will ever spell his name correctly. With Fredrik, we made a short list of names, and this one just grew on us. There’s a likable Fredrik on a TV show we watch too, which always helps…”
As I spoke these words I was mostly thinking about Matthew. I find myself doing this quite frequently now. Multitasking. Three years on, I don’t speak his name as much as I used to, but I think of him no less, even while I’m speaking about Joel or Fredrik or something else entirely.
We probably put the most effort into coming up with Matthew’s name. Before we knew babies could die, or, specifically, that OUR baby could die. This was back when we could effortlessly fixate on something like a name as though more important things (such as survival) were a certainty. It seems like so long ago. It was a conversation between two people who no longer exist.
A year ago I might have answered this question differently. I might have volunteered how I came up with Matthew’s name too, even though this wasn’t part of the question. Perhaps I should have done this today. Perhaps I dishonored him. Perhaps next time, I will provide some unsolicited information about Matthew. I don’t know.
As we approach his three year anniversary, I sense some shifts in my grief, some welcome, some not-so-welcome, some subtle (like my reaction to the situation above, representative of a shift), some not-so-subtle. Mostly things are just starting to feel different again. The only certainty in life, really – that things get different.
I hope to write about some of these shifts soon. But I struggled to even write this!