Our children’s names are very important to us. After months and months of debate, we named our first son Andrew Glenn. Andrew means “a strong man,” and our boy certainly embodied a strength of spirit that many grown men don’t possess. Glenn is my dad’s name, and I was so honored to name my son after him. Even his nickname, Andy, had meaning. Although my husband’s name is Alan, his great grandfather used to call him Andy, as he thought the name better suited him. Or course, we also thought it suited our little Andy perfectly.
Our second child is Lucy Catherine. Lucy means “light,” and her birth was a beacon of hope for us in the darkness after Andy’s death. Catherine is her Nana’s middle name (my husband’s mother) and also means “pure.” And, in my humble opinion, there is no child more pure of heart than our girl. As cliché as it is to say, Lucy absolutely is the light of our lives and the reason that we have learned to smile again.
So, after much deliberation, we have decided to name our newest baby William McLean. William means “determined protector.” With the obstacles that this pregnancy has faced and that he has overcome so far, our baby boy is definitely determined to be part of our family. We believe that he is being sent to us by the angels and that he will be the protector of our healing hearts. But, his middle name is even more special.
In 1940, my paternal grandparents had their second child, a baby boy they named Harry McLean. They planned to call him “Mack.” But, soon after the baby was born on May 28, they discovered he was suffering from Rh incompatibility and was deathly ill. Mack lived for just three days, never meeting his older brother – my father.
I didn’t know Mack’s story until 2009. He wasn’t included in the written histories of our family. My grandparents never talked about him – at least not to me – while they were alive. My father told me about Mack’s brief life just after we lost Andy.
At the time, I wished that my grandparents were still here, so I could get their counsel. I wanted to tell them that I now understood the horror of losing a child and why they kept their silence. That I knew how hard it was to put those terrible – and often unthinkable – last moments into words. That I too had experienced the destructive pain with which they lived for so many years. That, by sharing this heartbreak, we were tied together even closer.
But, I also knew that I needed to handle my grief differently. I had to share Andy’s life with as many people as I could to ensure his legacy. And, I believed that my would-be Uncle Mack should be remembered too. Each life, no matter how brief, matters. I didn’t know how I would honor Mack, but I hoped that I’d get the chance.
That chance is here now. William McLean will be born 73 years after his namesake, in the same month.
Since we decided to name our son after him, my dad and his younger sister Barbara have been researching Mack’s life, learning more about their brother than they ever knew before. They are even planning to visit his grave – one of my father’s earliest memories is of his grieving mother taking him there, though at the time he didn’t understand why.
I hope that my grandparents, Uncle Mack, and Andy are watching from heaven and that they are proud of us. After all, while our new baby will carry forward his name, Andy made sure that Mack finally received the legacy he deserved.
–Audra Perry Butler