Story: when our second came out a boy, there was the thing of a name. My eldest brother had died at 19, godly, and the apple of my father’s eye. He was headed for a PhD and planned to do missions, Wycliffe, if I’m not mistaken. A sophomore at Swarthmore, he had a sledding accident Christmas night and died about two weeks later. Dad (and Mud, of course) were inconsolable. Lose any son and you will be if you’re a dad, but your third and eldest son who is a righteous witness on campus?
So now I had a son and what were we to name him?
Mary Lee and I disagreed. She didn’t like either of the names I wanted. We agreed on all three of our daughters’ names, but neither of our sons. I told her I was going to name our son Joseph Tate Bayly VI, and that was that. He was born, named, and from Mary Lee’s bedside there in the delivery room at 7:30 AM I called Dad to tell him. I woke him up and said, “Guess what, Dad?”
He said, “What, Tim?”
I said, “Mary Lee gave birth.”
“What is it” he asked?
Then, I listened to Dad on the phone as he woke up Mud: “Mary! Mary! Wake up! Mary Lee had a baby and it’s a boy!” It was only their second grandchild. Then he asked, “What did you name him?”
I said, “We named him Joseph Tate Bayly.”
Long silence. Then, Dad to Mud, “Maaaary.” Very softly, “they named him Joseph Tate Bayly.”
Every ounce of my being was joy that moment—joy that I could do something to heal his grief. Even almost two decades after Joe had died.
But there’s more.
Then I said, “Guess what, Dad?”
He said, “What?”
I said, “April fools.” It was, in fact, the first of April.
He said, “Oh, you got me.” Then, Dad to me: “You know what I did last night?”
I said “What?”
“I set my alarm for two in the morning and got up and called Debbie (my sister in Chicago) and told her Mary Lee had had her baby, then said ‘April fools.’”
Dad and I laughed that he’d gotten Deb and I’d gotten him. Then some small talk and it was time to hang up, except…
“Guess what, Dad?”
“Mary Lee really did have the baby, it really is a boy, and we really did name him Joseph Tate Bayly.” Both of us laughed even more, equally enjoying all the mayhem.
Today, almost forty years later, what I will testify to is that my son Joseph is not me, but my eldest brother. In appearance. In character. I mannerisms. What joy!
Naming is deep truth. It’s epistemological. Ontological. Theological. Naming is hope which God makes into sight. Praise Him! Love,