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Synchronicity II: What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” (Romeo & Juliet, Act II, Scene II)

This may have been true for Juliet, but for me, there are two names that have carried a heavy weight for me. One is my own name, and the other is our daughter’s name.

While my uncle Paul was in the Air Force during World War II, his plane was shot down, leaving a widow and a young child. That also meant that my father lost his only sibling. I used to resent being a namesake and having a name that was a feminized version of a man’s name. My father and I both lost our only brothers, and when our daughter used my brother’s name for our grandson’s middle name, I experienced first hand how my father and grandparents must have felt about having me be a namesake for my uncle.

I have also been quite conflicted over our daughter’s name. We chose the first name, Rachel, for our daughter because we liked the sound of it, and we chose the middle name, Deanna, after a very loving and compassionate friend. With just 15 days to go before Rachel’s birth, there was a tragedy in Ashland, a town in Southern Oregon. It shook me to my core, and I knew I could no longer name our daughter Rachel Deanna.

Rachel and Deanna were 11 year old best friends who lived in Ashland, Oregon. On December 27, 1979, they went to play tennis together, and they never returned home. Their murdered bodies were later found in a football stadium press box. I saw the news conference on TV and heard the devastation in the words of their parents. I decided that night that we couldn’t name our daughter Rachel Deanna because I would always connect her name to a tragedy. And so, on January 11, 1980, our beautiful daughter Rachel Jennifer was born. The truth is that the middle name we gave her doesn’t fit as well as “Deanna” would have, but our rose by any name is just as sweet!

Holly: Sweet friend, we know this was a difficult decision. You forgot to tell the funnier version of this naming story and how you originally wanted to name your sweet baby Kelli. The reason this is so humorous is that your husband was teaching at a school called Kelly Middle School, and he thought everyone would think that he had named his daughter after his school. Now that you are older, and you have learned the power of a namesake for the surviving loved ones, you can appreciate what your name, Paula, meant to Uncle Paul’s family. The difference for your sweet daughter, Rachel, is that you were not a family member nor friend of Rachel’s and Deanna’s families. To paraphrase William Shakespeare, that which we call Rachel, by any other name would still be as sweet. And 41 years later, you still hold great compassion for the parents who lost their daughters, Rachel and Deanna.

Photo by Michelle Leman on

Synchronicities are not always joyful, but they are usually memorable. May you be aware of and acknowledge the synchronicities in your life. As we approach Memorial Day, we pause to remember all the members of the military who died while serving this country. We have gratitude for them and their families who have sacrificed so much. Soul Bridge Coaching and Holly (May 25, 2021)

Previous posts on Synchronicities:

Synchronicities I: Soulful Love Does Not Die

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