I’ve heard a common question recently: what is my name now that I’m married? A few years ago, even before I met Aaron, I decided that I was going to keep my last name. While there are a few reasons why I decided this a while back, the top reason was my grandfather. They decided to separate him from his siblings to ensure the last name “Torigian” would live on. Even though my grandfather, his brother, and his sister survived,
I am the last person of the last generation in my family to have the last name “Torigian.” To me, it represents a family who survived a genocide and the resilience that endured. (For the record, Aaron has a wonderful last name too. It’s Coleman.)
I’ve seen how many of my friends and many of you have made a variety of choices when it comes to choosing names. I’ve seen my female friends take their spouse’s name in order to have a “team name” for the family and others who have decided to hyphenate to
represent their past and future. I’ve noticed some clergy couples choose to hyphenate last names so that both members of the couple have both last names. Both my mom and my sister have retained their maiden names as one of their middle names. And I have some friends who have combined last names into one new name for the family.
Choosing a name and renaming goes beyond just marriage. I have friends who changed their name because it no longer fit who they were. I have transgender and gender nonbinary friends who change their name to reflect the person God has always known them to be. I have friends who will often choose to switch back to their birth last name once they get divorced and others who keep their married last name upon divorce because it
matches their childrens’ names.
Naming is a holy process. In Genesis 2, God gave humans the task of naming the animals. Through names, God calls Abraham and Sarah, Jacob (Israel), and Paul into new phases of their lives. Without a doubt, most of you have pondered names - either your own or when you were having children. You wanted your child to have a name that meant something honorable to your family.
Whatever names we decide for ourselves, for children, and for our family, it’s often a process full of prayerful reflection - one in which we embrace what God is calling each of us to do and one which reflects our identity with God.
(Still the Rev. Michelle L. Torigian)