A FEW WORDS ON SENDING NAMES TO ABYDOS
My aunt, my father’s only sister, lived her adult life in the wilderness of Orange, California, on the border with Anaheim, not far from Disneyland and within bicycle range of the baseball stadium. She was a passionate Angels fan.
I’m a little slow to use her name, because it’s complicated. It’s Gertrude, not the happiest of names, but there it is. To my father and the East Coast in general, she was Gertie, but to her husband and her adopted West Coast, she was Trudy.
I spent some time with her and her husband when I was 21, just out of college, and trying to figure out what to do with my life. Imagine that – being 21 and thinking that you could figure out what to do with your life, instead of realizing that you were either going to go with – or against – whatever the tide of life was going to send you.
Trudy hoped I would settle there, in Southern California, and I might have, but one day I realized that I couldn’t live in a place where the trees didn’t change with the seasons. I need the turning seasons to orient myself to time – not that it will do me much good in the end.
So, I returned to the East Coast, but we tried to stay close. I went to see her when I was in L.A. for business, and sometimes we tried to get to an Angels game. But as she got older, we were more likely to listen to the games on the radio, a totally ‘50’s thing.
Eventually, she passed, as we all do, and I went back one more time for the funeral. She was buried, as she would have insisted, by Protestant rites, and the minister droned on about her spirit free from her body. He meant well, but that didn’t sit well with me or her current boyfriend. Tom, a very lapsed but very good Catholic and I, a practicing but not very good Catholic, both believe in the resurrection of the body, following the Apostles’ creed and the catechism of our Church.
But any of our beliefs about death and what happens after are necessarily speculative. We don’t know. The ancient Egyptians, who also believed in the resurrection of the body, once believed that if you could just get the body to the holy city of Abydos for burial, all would go well. But it got difficult and expensive to send bodies to Abydos, so they began the custom of simply sending the names of the departed in wooden ships to Abydos.
The Egyptians were very particular about names. They believed that each person had a true and special name, a name he or she did not give out regularly, because names were magical. If you knew a person’s true and special name, you could have magical power over that person.
So, how now should I pray for my aunt? I tend to go with Gertie, because that’s how I knew her when she was young and I was but a boy. But I should probably add a /Trudy for the time I spent with her in the wilderness of Orange.
So, God bless you Gertie/Trudy, and God bless the Anaheim Angels – unless, of course, they’re playing the Yankees.