Editor’s note: The following writing by North Shore resident Carol Iberger is the latest installment from the 2016 Marblehead Seniors Memoir Project: To Write a Life, held at the JCC. Please check back for future workshops and opportunities to connect with other fellow writers.
What do you name a baby who is about to die in your arms? We watched as the last few pink bubbles protruded from her perfect rosebud lips, as she was slipping away on a cold January Sunday morning.
The hospital chaplain leaned in closer to us and gently asked as to the name we had chosen for our baby girl. We hadn’t. This was so unexpected. Why couldn’t I think of a name for our almost 7-month premature, perfectly formed baby girl with ten fingers and ten toes? Sadly, her little lungs did not arrive fully developed, and so here we were.
Think. Think, I begged my foggy heartbroken self. I glanced at my husband who was nervously stroking her tiny forehead with his pinky. His wet tear-streaked face looked back at me as he mouthed the words, “Whatever name you chose for her is OK with me.”
What DO you name a baby girl who is slowly leaving this earth? Does naming her right now make her go more quickly? Do we choose the name we had picked out a few months ago that we really loved? But of course, that meant we could not use our favorite name again for another baby. Do we choose a name just for this baby, so we can save our “chosen” name for perhaps another baby–is that a macabre/perverse thought?
My little angel was ready to go, but she needed me this one last and only time in her short life!
We had a name that was still a working contender behind our first choice. So we agreed on that name. Her middle name was more of a struggle now–we hadn’t thought that far ahead. Unbelievably, I chose a classmate’s name who sat next to me all four years of high school over 20 years ago. She was kind and gentle and it felt like a safe name. Time was of the essence. Now she had her name. Just for her.
Alyssa Jill left on a cloud shortly thereafter. I love saying her name, the name I chose!
BIO: Carol Iberger spent the first half of her career in corporate sales selling East Coast displays to Fortune 500 Companies and now works as an interior designer, for which she was featured on Channel 7’s Room for Improvement. She has been married for 36 years, has three adult children, and just became a first-time grandmother.