What’s in a Name?

Juliet:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose.

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

What a great line from one of the most read and performed plays in human history, “Romeo and Juliet”.

I’ve always been into names and their meaning. I think it started when my parents told me the story of how they went about naming my brothers and I, and what our names would have been if we had been girls. Apparently, my dad had a couple rules regarding our names. Rule 1 was that they needed to have a strong meaning. Rule 2 is that they should be easy to pronounce. Finally, rule 3 was that they needed to be gender specific (apparently that didn’t include nicknames as everyone calls me Alex and we all know that that isn’t gender specific). There are some funny stories on how I didn’t quite grasp what my name was in my early years. Apparently I got in a fight with my brother Josh when he tried to correct me when I kept calling myself “Alice”. He said, “Your name isn’t Alice, it’s Alex with a X” and apparently I insisted that we was wrong to the point of being very upset with him. I also apparently would tell people that I had two middle names because I didn’t understand that my full first name was “Alexander”. I would tell people that my middle names were “Ander” and “Ian”. Ian is my actual middle name, but because I knew a kid named “Ander” and everyone called me “Alex”, I just assumed that to be the case.

I love the meaning of my name and I remembered recently that in third grade we voted on which name in the class had the coolest meaning and I won. Alexander means “defender of man kind”. Throughout my life, I’ve taken that meaning to heart, and as I’ve gotten older, that meaning has become more and moore a part of who I am as a person. I’ve always had a desire and passion to protect others and stand up for the voiceless and marginalized. Prior to marrying Amy, I lived with my best friend Richard and when we would each go through the ups and cavernous downs of living in LA and dealing with the BS of pursuing a career in entertainment, we would just remind each other of what our names meant. Richard means “Brave Ruler” or in some translations “King” and he would call me “Alexander the Great”, “The Defender”, and when we would remind each other of our names, our demeanor would instantly change as we would understand immediately our purpose for being here. I remember when I got married I gave all my groomsmen iPod shuffles and inscribed nicknames on the back. I put “King Richard” on Richard’s, and he told me afterwards that it was exactly what he needed at that moment because he was going through a rough patch and feeling lost and that simple reminder brought him back to where he desired to be. Just shifting our perspective slightly (with the reminder of our names) would immediately give both Richard and I the courage necessary to move forward.

When I started dating Amy, I of course had to find out what her name meant and I was very pleased to find out that it meant “beloved”. That meaning not only reflected her personality and the way that most of us that love her feel about her, but it’s always been a reminder to me to make sure I tell her and show her how much I cherish her on a regular basis, especially since the moment she became my wife. Our wedding rings have “My Beloved” and “My Defender” inscribed on the inside and I had lost my wedding ring for about a year and we miraculously found it the day I got back from the hospital after my first surgery. Wearing the ring has been the symbol of courage that I’ve needed in this season of recovery to keep fighting and protecting the sanctity of our commitment to each other. I recently did some more research to see how names and their meanings have played a role in my life this past year and I was surprised to discover the significance of each name that have made an impact on me.

Let’s start with just the immediate circle of support in my life. Ruth, (my mom) means “friendship”, and her commitment to Amy and I has been that of loyalty, sacrifice, and service, everything that you would want a friend or parent to be during a time of immense change and enormous grief. Stacie, (Amy’s mom), means “resurrection” (so cool), and we’ve obviously seen this season as the “new normal” and in essence a “resurrection” of new life for us (and of course a reminder of Christ’s victory over death). We’ve also seen a resurrection in Stacie’s own life as a result of being personally affected by my diagnosis. I’ve felt deep down that during this whole season of recovery, that my dad, who passed away 17 years ago, has been looking out for me during this season and his name was “Evans” which means “God is good”, which has been the way that Amy and I have framed our whole outlook in life. Dr. “Abrahamian” was one of the first people to help lead us to that way of framing our situation by being the first medical professional to encourage me and give us hope for a future. “Abraham” the “father of nations” is of course the biblical symbol of “God’s promises”.  My brothers Joshua (Josh) means “God is Salvation” and Nathanael (Nate) means “Gift of God” and they have both been a reminder of God’s goodness to Amy and I during this season. Our friend Tim (Timothy) has been the most consistent support to us as he has, since my diagnosis, stopped by our place at least once a week if not more to check on us (again, everything you’d hope to get from a friend during a rough situation like ours). There is also Dr. Timothy Cloughesy who, in my eyes, saved my life by discovering that there was still more tumor in my head after the first surgery. He also took over as my neuro-oncologist and has been doing a great job treating me since taking over. After my first surgery I knew in my gut that I needed to go see Dr. Cloughesy even though I had everything set up at a different hospital where the doctors assumed that the live tumor in my head was just “swelling”. I find it to be ironic then that “Timothy” means “to honor God”.

I’ve also seen the significance of names in recent weeks. You all probably know by now about the note I wrote about David Pearson who recently passed from Brain Cancer. It’s interesting because I felt such compassion for he and his mom Amanda with out knowing them beyond interactions online. Well if you look a little deeper, you’ll notice that David means “beloved”, as in the same meaning as my beautiful and tender wife, “Amy”. On top of that, Amanda means “worthy of love” and it goes without saying that Amanda is probably in need of some love right now and , at the very least, could use a reminder during the hardship of this time, that she is in fact still “worthy” of love.

I don’t know, maybe, I’m completely off base here. To accept any of this, you would have to commit to believing that names have meaning and purpose and even moreso that your life has meaning and purpose (I’ve never personally known a human being who doesn’t believe this or at least doesn’t want to believe this). Names seem to be a big deal in the Bible and I guess to even care about that, you would have to commit to giving the Bible some credibility in your life. The problem I have, sometimes, with any of this stuff is that I feel like I often expect a certain result, especially once I commit to something and sometimes the result isn’t what I thought it should be or, I guess, “hoped” it would be. Twenty years ago, I committed to giving God, not only credibility…but authority in my life, and I have to be honest that a lot of the results in my life haven’t been what I wanted or hoped for, but to quote Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  and I guess this post is about me taking Ferris’ advice, and that even though the results in my life haven’t exactly been what I was hoping for (with the exception of marrying Amy). It has been a good reminder to look around and see what life has been giving me this past year. By doing so, I’ve definitely seen that someone is looking out for me and giving my life purpose and meaning. This is especially true, since twenty years ago, I chose to frame my worldview in such a way that can make life seem pretty absurd and even unfair sometimes (if you’re honest with yourself, a life committed to God can often feel both absurd and unfair in spite of the joy and grace you feel as welll). However, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I chose to commit to Him the way I have, especially considering that if I was a girl, my parents would’ve named me Elizabeth, which means “God is my Oath”.

The Sage. Danke schoen, Ferris for reminding me to stop and look around.

Much Love,

Alex

P.S. About to start another round of Chemo. Prayers would be mucho appreciated.

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