Years ago I wrote a series of four poems for our children, one for each of them. I’ve shared two here, Jessica’s and David’s. I’d like to tell you about a third, our firstborn, Jamila. Every child is unique, but a first-born is especially so perhaps because Mom and Dad have no experience at being parents! They’re learning on the job. And I loved every moment of it. I have such vivid memories of her childhood, of every ‘first’, each one a first for her Mom and me as well as for her.
Jamila is an Arabic girl’s name that means ‘beautiful’. We call her Mila for short. Where her sister Jessica has sky blue eyes, Mila’s eyes are deeper, oceanic. They always make me think of being on the open ocean. Mila and her wonderful husband Tuck are parents of their first son, Tommy. They live in Oklahoma City, too far from Minneapolis!
I knew ‘words’ would be Mila’s life’s work when she was 3 or 4. She formed full sentences before she was two, then never stopped talking. So it’s no surprise to me that she grew up to be a therapist, caring and helping people understand themselves, their struggles, and how to make sense of life. She’s one of the most observant students of human behavior I know. She looks beyond the surface to what motivates people, how human beings tick, and she wants others to be whole and to live life to the full. She’s also helped me as a Christian thinker to form a more holistic approach to understanding human beings.
Mila’s mother and I have given each of our children a specific ‘life-gift’ (usually upon High School graduation) that matches their natural dispositions but also calls them to become more than they are. Mila’s life-gift was a ‘compass’. A compass helps locate you in the world and shows you the way to go. It orients you and provides direction to those who need to find their bearings. That captures Mila’s fundamental gift as a compassionate counselor and guide. The truth in her calls out the truth in others.
I’d love to share Mila’s poem with you—
Beauty is Your Name
Jamila, beauty is your name,
In form and thought the same;
Your eyes, like oceans deep where ships explore
Treasures on some exotic shore,
Invite all seekers true to life’s great find—
“Know thyself”—possession of the greatest kind.
Your voice, no mere offer of vibration,
Settled in both its path and intention,
Sways with weight while ‘ore the ocean’s face
It bears its wealth and cargo with a steady pace
Toward harbored hearts where ‘ere it welcome finds,
And there its treasure lays beneath the sun that shines.
Oh what beauties, words falling from your smiling lips,
More desired are they than countless ships
Appearing on horizons to those lost at sea;
More perfect in their placement than fine tapestry.
Your face and oh—your lips, eyes, and voice speaking,
Always intent, on course, and always seeking.
From your first days your heart upon the truth was set,
No falsehoods or exaggerations of it ‘ere were let;
How often we did know each other’s thoughts though none was spoken,
When ‘ere our eyes by chance would meet or by some such token.
And what shall I then say of your love for me?
‘Twas without guile, always unforced and free;
No pretense therein nor hint of condition,
In spite of pressures that demanded your submission
You loved, and to your love no strings attach,
And to such love no poetry of mine can match;
‘Twas true when you were born and shall ‘ere remain the same,
The dearest truth, my love, that beauty is your name.