Her name in Korean means blessed blossom. Her referral came to them on a Good Friday. They were told to return the adoption papers that following week, and to include the name they’d choose for this sweet baby girl who would become their daughter. But how to name a baby they hadn’t even met yet? Sure, they knew plenty of pregnant moms and dads who name their babies while still in utero, but that kind of naming wasn’t for them. International adoption is a whole different ball game. Obviously there wasn’t a baby growing inside her body, but in her mind and heart, there very much was. Still, this future baby of theirs was hard to conceptualize because when adopting a child there are so many unknowns. How old will the baby be when news of her reaches you? How much of her life before you will you learn about? When that longed-for ‘call’ finally does come, how will you really feel? Oh, she worked these thoughts over in her mind nonstop, like a woman fingering her rosary beads, lips murmuring in constant prayer, from the moment her dossier reached its foreign destination. She spent hours and hours on the Internet, mining for other people’s adoption stories, and looking for trends she could use to guesstimate when their referral might come.
The Call – that peak experience when your social worker tells you that yes, indeed, you do have a baby, and gives you all the relevant details – arrived months before they expected it. Their telephone rang on Good Friday; her husband was home from work that day so she yelled for him to pick up the extension. She wanted them to hear the news together this time. Her hands trembled and she felt just…staggered by the prematurity of it all. She heard the social worker telling them that their baby was a daughter. She was eight months old and living in Seoul, Korea. She was named Eun Young, bestowed by her birth mother and its translation meant blessed blossom. The social worker came over a little while later and left them with the packet of paperwork and photos showing a plump and precious baby, who would soon become their daughter. Their first responsibility as her parents was to choose their name for her. But she wasn’t ready to name a baby just yet. Naming is momentous! She needed time to think about it all.
She could not escape the thought that someone who loved her had already given this baby a name. That felt sacred to her. She wanted the name to be somehow congruent with her Korean name, meaningful on a deeper level, but she and her husband were without inspiration. She was feeling desperate because they were asked to return the acceptance papers to the agency as soon as possible, and include the baby’s new American name. No adoptive parent ever wants to delay paperwork by so much as an hour, let alone a day, so the pressure was definitely on. They had that Easter weekend to decide.
Good Friday soon became Easter Sunday, and if you’ve ever been in a Catholic Church on Easter, you’ll remember the altar adorned with a radiant display of floral magnificence. The joy of Resurrection follows the sparseness of the Lenten season and the traditional Easter lilies were everywhere. On this Easter Sunday she was frankly oblivious to anything around her, so preoccupied she was with naming this child, and yearning for spiritual guidance. Her husband was outside the church, walking their restless toddler son. As the Easter liturgy was celebrated, she decided to inwardly recite the names of her cousins’ children. She began with her favorite cousin’s family – there were seventeen siblings in all (plus spouses) so she started from eldest to youngest, cataloging the names of their children in her mind. She did this naming until she got to the seventh cousin and his family of three, the youngest of whom was a girl named Lilly. When she murmured the name Lilly to herself, something inside her stirred. Lilly. Lilly…Lily.
Truly, it was like the rock pushed back from the tomb and she saw. This feeling was like nothing she’d ever had before. It all coalesced, and she knew. Lily was the name for this child. It was the name she’d been grasping for, before it was revealed: Lily with one L, like the flower. Like the Easter lily, these blessed blossoms that surrounded her on this morning.
The surge of energy was palpable even as she sat still in the pew. She felt that the baby’s birth mother would approve of their choice, given a chance. Her impulse was to bolt from that church and find her husband out there on the sidewalk and babble euphorically about the divine inspiration she’d just had. She had never experienced a moment like this one – a divine revelation! but she remained seated, calmly, considering it all through her excitement, until the Mass was over and the final Easter blessing was made. Then she rushed outside to her husband and son and presented him with what she truly knew was to be the name of their baby: Lily, the blessed blossom, American style. It wasn’t one they’d thought about, but it felt just as right to him as it did to her. At brunch later, she told some friends, who tried, helpfully, to proffer other ideas for names that were also floral in nature, but they failed to grasp the meaning of the Easter lily being the only blossom that could possibly be a blessed one – that was the meaning, the congruence she was yearning for. No, Rose, would certainly not do; their baby’s name would be, and could only be Lily, the blessed blossom.
Thank you for indulging a personal post. From time to time I share stories that have no relation to beachlife.
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Jeannie Greenwald is a blogger, neighborhoods / 'go local' evangelist, hobbyist photographer, and degreed psychologist.