Today the Church remembers St Luke, writer of the gospel of that name, and of the book of Acts.
Luke the physician, healer of bodies, whose subject was Jesus the Healer-Saviour.
As a boy’s name, I hadn’t come across Luke much before 1989 (apart from Star Wars, obviously). That year I taught a Luke in my class of seven year olds, in a crumbling Victorian school building in Sussex, by the sea. Luke was small, freckled, fair. Quiet, but sharp as a pin. As any teacher will tell you, depending on the child, a name can become loved or loathed. I was probably unconsciously storing them all up for when I might have my own children.
There were six Daniels in my first class, which proved to be approximately five too many, so that name was never going to be a front runner. Based on bad experiences, Robert, Jason and Roy were definitely OUT, as far as boy’s names went for me.
But Luke, yes. Lovely name.
The Luke in my class was one of four, a lovely family with youngish parents who were always pleasant at parents’ evenings. One day I arrived at school to be met by a distraught Deputy Head, running dangerously fast out of the staff room to tell me, class teacher, that Luke’s dad, a part time DJ, had driven at high speed into a tree on the way back from a local disco the night before. He was killed outright.
Needless to say, Luke didn’t appear in school for many days. When he did, he was even quieter.
When I finally did have my own boys to name, like everyone else we hunted around, endlessly trying out associations, as you do. We had lost a son in still birth and on the successful birth of another son, we gave him Luke as a middle name. At the time I said it was in recognition of the Healer-Saviour portrayed by St Luke, because grief can be healed, though it takes a long time. But also perhaps after that quiet little fatherless boy from Seaford.
The Jesus of Luke has a special place for the sad, the bereaved, and for women and children. Jesus as real, human, vulnerable, not impervious to loss.
I’d love to know what happened to Luke. Maybe he still lives by the sea. I hope he grew up to know that he was loved, that this knowledge gave him strength to be everything he could be. He’d be 36 years old now. About the age his father was… maybe even with his own son.
I hope that eventually healing came to lodge there, right in the centre of his life, like a middle name.