Many things. Feelings, emotions, sentiments, memories… the entire lives sometimes of others.
I was named for my uncle. My father’s younger brother, who passed away before I was born. I should have been another Herbert, in a long line of Herberts. But as my parents were choosing a name for their second child, they said ‘If it’s a boy, what about David?’
What about David? David died in his twenties. As a young child, I remember being told that he had been sick, but wouldn’t get help. And it always saddened me that if my uncle had just gone to the hospital before it was too late, he would have been ok.
I found out much later that my uncle committed suicide. And the name took on a whole new significance. What did my grandparents think when they spoke to me? And my aunts and uncles, who had all grown up or spent time with David? How does one disassociate from a name? For don’t we all lump everyone with the same name together? These are the Matthews in my life, here are the Alisons, and over there are all the Nates. A case which, if true, would associate my name forever with tragedy.
I’ve grown into my name. I’m happy with it. It’s like I have the chance to be the legacy of somebody who was unable to leave any another legacy. And it means that despite all the heartache, all the sadness surrounding my uncle’s departure, well, part of him lives on. Part of him still lives and loves and keeps calm…
And carries on.