What Do Our Names Mean?

The school.

I stared at the email.”Don’t open it,” I counseled myself. “This will be too sad.”

And yet in a way I wanted to know.   Click!   First, I downloaded  the fun part, a spreadsheet of my old schoolmates’ current email addresses. I remembered them fondly, if hazily.

And then I downloaded the second spreadsheet: the list of obituaries.

As I knew I would, I felt overwhelmed with grief. How could these charming, talented people be dead? Surely they were not old enough.  (And yet we are.) The first boy who called me pretty (he was being gallant) died some years back. And I was overwhelmed to learn that the witty hippie girl who had Bob Dylan revivals (on her stereo, of course) and used to chant  comically after a night with her boyfriend, “I’m so sore from balling,” has departed this life   And when I read her obit and learned how underemployed she had been, I could only think think that this smart, cheerful woman must have brightened the days of her co-workers.

And then–oh my God!–the aloof, cute, artistic boy who never in my remembrance participated in class or extra-curricular activities. He was kind of my hero. A few years ago, he  bought my grandparents’ old house. On the rare occasions I returned to my hometown, I felt somehow connected because of this detail.

We think we are the only ones in the world with our name, and that we can look up our friends easily.  There are a hundred people with their names, too. And  so the internet diminishes us by showing we’re one of hundreds of the same (or if your name is Smith, about a million).

But these people are not diminished.  I can picture them.