28 April MMXVI
This week has been such a significant one in Song-Felicity’s journey home to us. Last weekend we received immigration approval to bring her home as our child. The last few days have been consumed with applying for our visas to enter China and for her visa to come home to the U.S. With monumental encouragement and cheer leading from our sweet Goddaughter, we completed Song-Felicity’s visa application yesterday. It should be the final complicated document we are required to navigate before bringing her home. One of the questions it asked was the name she was going to be given by us.
Seeing the name we have chosen for her on a legal document was very striking to me. Maybe because I am a lawyer and witnessing it on something legal makes it “official” to me somehow. But it was palpably profound seeing both the name she has in China and the name she will have with us on the same document. Seeing them together made me increasingly aware that, when she finally comes home to us, she will also be leaving a part of herself in China. The changing of her name concretely symbolizes the changing of her life. The name that was chosen for her by the orphanage is being replaced by the one that has been chosen for her by her family. And seeing this in type-faced letters on a screen caused me to contemplate the gravity of other name changes.
When my last name changed on my wedding day, I left a part of my life behind to enter into a new chapter of it…a new calling for it. When I was Confirmed in the Church, I took a new name…one I had chosen for myself to bind me to a heavenly hero I had personally connected with. It was added to the names my parents had chosen for me…concretely symbolizing my faith crossing the threshold from the one chosen for me by my parents and Godparents into the one I was choosing for myself.
When nuns and religious sisters take their vows, their names often change to symbolize the new life they are saying “yes” to. And Christ, Himself, changed the names of some of His most intimate followers before He called them to something especially significant. Simon became Peter and Saul became Paul. The Lord changed their names Himself to signify that they would need to take on a new identity in Him to accomplish all He was calling them to.
Song-Felicity is keeping part of her China name and taking on some others. The meaning attached to each was discerned with a profoundly prayerful and purposeful intent:
SONG: The name chosen for her by her doctor when she arrived at the orphanage. I pray that it always anchors her to her Chinese identity and reminds her of the joy that her precious identity gives to us. Within hours of knowing I was her mother, I was perpetually praying the psalm, “My heart leaps for joy and with my song I praise Him.”
FELICITY: Having a double first name is a bond she will always share with her mother and each of her sisters. All Williams girls have double names. And Felicity honors her China mother by honoring Saint Felicity of Carthage who is the patron saint of mothers who are separated from their children.
THERESE: The name I chose for myself when I was confirmed in honor of the heavenly hero I had loved since I was only 9 years old. It does not escape me that St. Therese longed deeply to be a missionary in China during her earthly life but was prevented from going by her poor health. And though I have three daughters older than Song-Felicity, none of them have ever had my name. It feels right that she is the first one who does. Her sisters have my genetics. She has my name…the name I chose for myself.
WILLIAMS: She is one of us! She is eternally part of our family and part of its heartbeat.
The call of a name…such a concretely powerful and beautiful symbol! May Song-Felicity’s concrete call to her new life eternally remind her of her enduring heritage as a daughter of China, of the love of both of her mothers and of the saints who intercede for them, and of the family who has so joyfully awaited for her to come home.