Jewish namesake etiquette, and also suicide considerations
So I was doing dishes this morning and missing a dear friend who died this spring, when it occurred to me that I'd really love to commemorate her in naming a future child.
I know that in the Ashkenazi tradition, it's not done to name after living relatives, but are there any other considerations that I (a non-Jew) should take into consideration, especially in order not to step on the feelings of my friend's family?
Most of my Jewish family friends who have honored passed-away relatives with child-naming have just used the first letter of the honoree, but is that actually a requirement, or is it okay to use the actual name of the person being honored? I've wondered about whether it's just about wanting to use more au-current names for the children, or whether it's an actual custom to avoid reusing the same name, and I'd like to actually know, as my friend had lovely names that are also ones that pass our middle-name criteria (more popular and less unusual than our first name choices).
And, are there any restrictions on multiple people honoring the same namesake? I know that my friend's sister is attempting to have a child right now, and I imagine that she might wish to honor her sister in naming her future kids, and I don't want to step on any feelings. I'm not close to the sister, nor do I even have her current contact information, and I would be the very opposite of bothered to find that both the sister and I decided to honor my friend, but I want to make sure there aren't any cultural restrictions on the other side that I should be sensitive of. If we are expecting a girl, I do think I'd probably contact my friend's mother and discuss our naming plan and basically ask permission - while we aren't close they are people I would send a birth announcement to.
A separate issue: I strongly suspect that my friend had an active hand in her own passing. The family has very carefully avoided saying anything about the causes of her death (they are not people who talk very openly about difficult things), but 30 is not an age at which people spontaneously die in their sleep very often. My friend had battled psych issues for a very long time, so I'd be surprised to find otherwise, actually. As I know myself from past experience, losing a family member to suicide means that there's a lot of anger wrapped up in the grief, and from conversations with my friend's family that definitely seems to be the case, so I want to proceed extra-carefully and avoid offending.
That also raises a question of whether it would be horrible for a child to find out that they're named after someone who (likely) commited suicide. In our family we DO tend to talk about difficult things openly, so I do think it would eventually come up that my friend had such difficult inner demons to fight.
Thu, 07/26/2012 - 1:18pm