By Laura Weisskopf Bleill
When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter – now 16 months – my husband and I could not agree what to name her.
My names? Too weird, too ethnic (this isn’t New York, you know), too unique (his words). His names? Too common, too plain, too uninspired (my words).
But there was one name that we could agree on, and that was the name she would ultimately receive. But oh, the tumult it caused – in my own mind.
You see, the name we ultimately chose had been my grandmother’s name – on her birth certificate. But somehow, the story goes, she never knew that was her name. Instead, for the first six years of her life she was called Sadie, a name she despised so much that when a French girl in the first grade class at her Chicago elementary school suggested she change it to Saerree, she did. (It sounded French, but it’s pretty much made up.)
You’re probably wondering why that would be a problem. It is a traditional Jewish custom to name babies in memory and honor of deceased relatives. And some people think that it’s a major no-no to name a child after a living relative. An old superstition, some believe that naming a child after a living relative is bad luck: the angel of death, an easily confused spirit, might take the baby by mistake when coming for the older relative (thank you jewfaq.com).
My family tends to lean toward the superstitious side. But one day, in the course of a typical conversation about baby names, my grandmother’s given name was discussed. Oh, she said, that was never my name. And voila, I got my get-out-of-jail free card — without having to reveal to anyone that we were seriously considering that very name.
And that is how my daughter Sarah came to be.
Deep down in my heart, I wanted desperately to name this child to honor my Nana, who was the center of my universe – the woman who I considered the ultimate role model. But I didn’t want to offend anyone. In the end, I got my wish, with her approval.
Sarah was my Nana’s 18th great-grandchild. In Judaism, the number 18 is very significant. It is a symbol for the word “life.”
My grandmother passed away last week. During our last visits together, she told me that she had lived a very full life and she had no regrets; she was blessed by the love of her family and enriched by her faith.
At her funeral, I silently promised that I will pass on her legacy to both of my girls – her love of family; her commitment to education; her love of art and all things beautiful; her devotion to the state of Israel and the Jewish people; her dedication to tikkun olam – repairing the world.
Although she was 93 years old, my grandmother’s death still came as a shock. As my mom wrote so simply but eloquently in her eulogy: “There is never enough time to spend with the ones you love.”
I will miss her every day.
Laura Weisskopf Bleill, a co-founder of chambanamoms.com, loved being her grandmother’s granddaughter. She writes “Being a Jew in C-U,” a column about being a Jewish suburban girl in a cornfield, on Thursdays. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.