Name Game


In December of 2010, I was in a hair salon, drifting through the newspaper standing at the counter while my co-worker performed hair service. I read the page with the youth athlete photographs, as they sometimes print them for the softball teams and the school acknowledgements. Sometimes, I read these pictures because I see children with names of people I know and I see them as the offspring of my friends. But, today I did NOT read them. I was “drifting” through, ready to turn another page when at the bottom of this page, I read the last name on the page of the last photograph. The little girl’s last name was Kirkland. I read, “Kelsey Kirkland”.


The next day, my husband had a heart attack toward late morning while I was at work. No one knew. He was alone. Mother upstairs did not hear him calling out until nearly two o’clock. He was desparately ill, and dying (as the emergency room doctor would later say).

I sat in the hospital while my husband was in surgery, hours long surgery. This was already a long day as I worked on my feet the entire day and evening was soon upon us while I waited at the hospital. The surgery was so long that I was becoming frightened to hear the eventual final news alone. I called my husband’s nephew. I told him, “Don’t come, but will you please stay by your phone. I may fall apart before very long when the doctor comes out.” I didn’t relay the desperation but my voice probably did. I told him where I was and ended the call, and I went into the waiting room, where I had been for hours on the surgery floor, to wait, alone, some more and more.

While I was waiting, minutes dragging by, waiting for word, a couple sat on the adjoining couch. The young man was in work clothes, crying, and it was his mother who sat next to him holding his hand. The doctor came to the door, and at first I believed he was my husband’s surgeon, but what he said sent shock through me in that moment. He said, loudly and firmly, “I want to talk to the family of Kelsey Kirkland.” Seems our little girl softball-player, from the newspaper photograph I had seen the day before, had struck a telephone pole in a 3-wheeler, riding alone, and the doctor did not give any hope at all of her recovering. He virtually recited that he expected her to die tonight. The little girl was eight years old. When the doctor left, the man turned to his mother and said, “Mother, I’m about to lose my only child.”

Suddenly, we were three people, all losing our loved ones at the same time. Perhaps, I was the strangest stranger-lady, but I moved next to him and put my head on his shoulder, and he put his arm around me, while his mother held his other hand, and leaned upon his other shoulder. We sat like that for ten minutes, all three of us. No one said any words, just all three of us crying. Mother held one of his hands; I held his other hand. Some time later, I got up and left because the nephew called that he was there, to come and find him in the hallway on the floor I was on.

Somehow, Kirklands and I connected, in a most similar moment, when we all had no more words.

My assessment of The Name Game? … I’m where I’m supposed to be at the moment I’m supposed to be there. And, this is the proof. The Name Game always happens this way, over and over, though not ALWAYS critically inclined.

That evening, I was sublimely humbled.


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