We stood next to each other on that fall afternoon staring at a piece of granite. Newly installed. Our baby's name carved in black.
I had tears on my cheeks. In those days, I nearly always had tears on my cheeks.
"I love his name," I said.
"Me too," replied my husband.
"I don't want it to be wasted." I dissolved into tears. I can't quite remember what came after that. I'm sure there were reassurances in the form of, "it won't" or "don't worry."
We went home, and I still think of that afternoon from time to time. You see, I was never worried that we had wasted a good name on a baby who couldn't use it. I was (still am occasionally) worried that it's a good name for a sweet baby and it won't get used enough because he's not physically here.
We worked hard on that name. Ryan Kendrick Russell. We sweated over that name actually. We practically had round table discussions to arrive at that particular name.
A tradition in Richard's family is that first-born sons have RKR initials. There's one exception, Richard's grandfather who was named after a man who saved his father in wartimes or something (my apologies if my abridgement of this story has gotten the facts wrong in some way). With no such epic story in our own lives, and us being just traditional enough, we thought an RKR name would be really special for our little man.
We did not have an easy time agreeing on a name that started with R. It took months. But Ryan was always the name we would come back to. I believe Richard was almost a Ryan, and it became the only R name we could both agree was a great name. So Ryan it was. Then we had to start with K names.
Not only K names, but traditional as we sometimes consider ourselves, we found it necessary that the middle name bared some significance. So naturally, it would be Kendrick. Except to anyone reading this, even our closest family members. Kendrick would seem to make no sense at all. As far as either of us know, there is not a single Kendrick in either of our lineages.
But I remember the night we picked it perfectly.
Laying in bed we were tossing around the silliest names we could think of. I was making another pitch for abandoning the name Ryan altogether and going with "Robo Kop Russell." Rich, of course, refused to budge. We eventually started trying to combine names of relatives to create something unique. This got us to Richard's dad's middle name (Kenneth) and my dad's middle name (Frank).
We landed on Kendrank. A decidedly hideous name (my apologies to any Kendranks out there) that sent us into great fits of laughter.
When we caught our breaths, we repeated it over and over trying to get it to roll of the tongue more smoothly. Kendrank. Kendrank. Spoiler: it's impossible. But soon, Kendrank morphed itself by some divine intervention (likely God trying to get us to stop saying the horrible name, Kendrank), into Kendrick.
We repeated that over and over. And it was just right. It actually sparked some pretty intense fireworks in my belly. I was excited about an RKR name for the first time since Robo Kop.
And so, Ryan Kendrick Russell he became.
That fall day, looking at his name carved in granite put this fear in my heart that this name for this boy that we love so much would be forgotten. Because there's no way the world could remember him years after he's gone. That my Ryan Kendrick wouldn't have a chance to go out into the world and "make a name for himself." Using the name we gave him. The name we worked on for so long. The name that has given me the kind of memories that make my heart smile.
But I know now how wrong I was that day. Because even if the world forgets him. We won't. Even if no one else ever says his name, I always will. As time goes on I hope people always speak of him. But if they don't, his name was never wasted. It's still and always will be the most precious name in my heart.
My Ryan Kendrick.
And when or if people ask, I always say he was named after his grandfathers. Which allows me to tell the funny story about the time he was almost named Ryan Kendrank.
PS: Full disclosure I hate the wording of this "Certificate of Life." Too much past tense. Too much with the "brief life" (like we needed that reminder). Too much focus on how he "lived in our hearts." What about in my womb? But I digress. I included it because I just like to look at his full name as written by someone who isn't me. (And come on. Look at that dark lock of hair!)