Yesterday family and friends gathered at our synagogue to celebrate the baby naming of our little Sophia. It was a wonderful day, filled with joy and happiness, something we’ve all been looking forward to for a long, long time. Below are the thoughts that Jacqui and I shared at the ceremony yesterday.
Jacqui: Sophia Teri, Sarah Tovah in Hebrew, is named after my mother, Sandra Teri or Sarah Tovah, who died when I was nine years old. I have waited most of my life for this special opportunity, and I stand here before you honored to be bestowing the name of my extraordinary mother on our beautiful daughter, but deeply saddened that my mother is not here with us to share in our joy.
About 6 weeks ago I took Sophia on her first trip to the Franklin Institute, Philly’s science museum. It was a special day for me because I have so many fond memories of going to the Boston Science Museum with my dad when I was a kid. So that day that Sophia and I went the big exhibit was King Tut. And on one of the walls in the middle of the exhibit was an ancient Egyptian saying: “to speak the name of the dead is to make them live again”. This quote spoke to me and I have thought about it often since that day. In particular because my mother has never been as alive to me as in the last 5 months since Sophia was born. I can feel her vibrancy, love, and compassion. I can appreciate the sense of responsibility that she felt for me as a first time mother with a new baby girl. I can understand the commitment she made to making the world a better place particularly for women so that her little girl could grow up with choices. I can identify with her need to be protective of her daughter and yet at the same time encourage growth. Mostly I love greater than I have ever loved before and I know she did too. And in my most special moments with Sophia I feel my mother there with us.
Sophia is lucky enough to have the name Sarah after two other special women as well; our paternal grandmothers. What I can say about my grandmother is that she is the reason my father is the warm, sensitive, nurturing, and compassionate person that he is. His mother doted on him and later on me, and always took care of everyone else before herself. Sophia has already honored my grandmother’s memory in all that has given to those around her. Today’s celebration is not just about what we are giving to Sophia, but all that she has given and will continue to give us.
Michael: Jacqui and I want to thank all of our friends and family for being here today. And we want to especially thank the synagogue community for all of their support and love this past year. A special thank you to the Rabbi and Cantor who have been so wonderful to our family, and to the Young Professionals group who brought us meals while I was completing chemotherapy.
There is something bittersweet about naming a child in the Jewish faith. We pass on names only after we have lost a loved-one, and in doing so—like we do each week when we read from ancient texts—do our best to honor our ancestors. In Sophia’s name we also honor my paternal grandmother Sarah Yudell. Sophia, we hope to honor your great-grandma Sarah by instilling in you her best traits–her love of and dedication to her family, her love of life, and her incredible dancing skills. She and my grandfather danced the Charleston like few others.
I want to say a few more words about Sophia. Our little Sophia is our miracle baby. The day after she arrived I found out that the lymphoma for which I just competed treatment was gone. The other miracle is that on November 30th 2006, her birthday, my father, Sophia’s grandpa Allen, became a grandpa—a role that he so patiently looked forward to, but sadly, a role that was tragically cut short when he died just three months after Sophia’s birth. My promise to Sophia is that through us she will always know that in his three short months with her, her grandfather loved her a lifetimes worth of love, and that his love and his warmth, his strength of spirit and his optimism will always be a part of her.