Naming our daughter
We picked a name for our daughter, and I want to tell you what it is. But first, let me tell you about my grandmother, the most loving, reckless woman I’ve ever known.
If there has ever been someone who is proof that what happens to you doesn’t have to determine who you become, it’s my grandmother, Dee.
Dee was adopted by a couple in a small town in South Georgia, but from the day she was born her adoptive father fought extreme addiction and depression. He committed suicide when Dee was only nine. A little over a year later, on her tenth birthday, her adoptive mother took her own life.
It seemed like no one in the extended adoptive family felt like they could take care of a ten year old child, so Dee was now facing foster care. This is when Geneva Bray, a single woman in her mid 50’s stepped forward and said “No one asked me, I will take her.” This is the moment in history that changed my grandmothers life, and as a result ours.
Anytime I talked to my grandmother about her upbringing, she always gave credit to the lady that adopted her at ten, Geneva. She knew the kind of sacrifice that Geneva made at that point so late in her life, and how doing such a thing wasn’t even culturally acceptable for an older single lady. Geneva sent my grandmother to college. She left my grandmother farmland that my grandmother got to pass down to us. And most importantly she taught my grandmother, Dee, to believe in herself and love others.
All it takes is one person to show up at the right time in a kid’s life, and convince them they are loved. That one act can change the future of generations.
It changed ours.
The story of my grandmother’s life will always remind us…
…that people who abandon you don’t get to decide who you become.
…that your problems don’t have to determine your future.
…that your pain doesn’t have to define how you finish.
Dee is living proof that there’s not any heartbreak, or tragedy, or pain, or rejection, in any child’s life that is so great that it can’t be overcome by love.
Because of the influence of Geneva, Dee was a woman who believed in women. She played sports and went to an all girls college. She broke rules and fought to change systems. Because Geneva taught her, Dee taught me that being a woman was awesome. She taught me that you can be a woman and be strong, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also have grace and compassion. She taught me that you can be a woman and have opinions. You can be a woman and be great at basketball. You can be a woman and be smart. You can be a woman and change the world. You can be a woman and still be a bad ass. That was my grandmother.
I think that is why God gave her six granddaughters, because the world needs more women growing up believing in themselves.
Dee was reckless. But I don’t mean reckless in the thoughtless kind of way. I mean reckless in the “love everybody no matter what” kind of way. I mean the kind of reckless that gives away most of your money to care for other people. The kind of reckless that gets an extra job only to be able to give more away. The kind of reckless that throws all your worries out as soon as your eyes meet the ocean. I mean the kind of reckless that gets you kicked out of your granddaughters basketball game because the ref made a bad call. I mean the kind of reckless that deeply loves and prays for the people who have left you and scarred you. I mean the kind of reckless that turns up a country song and drives 90 down the highway to create a fun moment with your grandkids. I mean the kind of reckless who still honors and accepts the people who don’t agree with you.
The kind of reckless that shares a story about a thong at your granddaughters rehearsal dinner. The kind of reckless that has no limit to who you love.
My grandmother died two years ago this summer. I struggle so much knowing that my kids will not know my reckless grandmother. I have never felt such a responsibility to carry on the things that she has taught me about life because there is no way I will let my children grow up not knowing this kind of love. I have to figure out a way to be more like her so that they can have that.
I wish I could hug and thank Geneva Bray for giving Dee the opportunity to be loved like she deserved. It has changed the trajectory of our entire family. That’s why we are naming our daughter Neeva, after her great Aunt, Geneva. I can’t wait to love her and teach her what these women have taught me. Get ready world!