A Secret Name

Thanks to Dena Dyer—occasional roommate, former neighbor, dear friend—for pointing out the recent series of interviews that Stephen Colbert did with Oprah.

My son got me into “The Colbert Report” this summer. I’d never understood that Colbert’s show was satire until my son cued it up on Hulu and I heard the title pronounced properly: Colber- Repor- (the Ts are silent). Since my son is 16, driving, and quite busy, a love of Colbert is the only thing we share most days.

I’m enclosing a link to a particular segment of the interview here, but I want to lift a quote from it. When he was 10, Colbert lost his father and two brothers in a plane crash. He didn’t really grieve until he went to college. Here’s why:

“For years, I sort of thought that was my secret name—that loss was my name. I like the idea that you have a secret name. You have your name, and then you have a secret name. That’s a name that no one can ever really pronounce. You know? Because it’s who you are. And, you know, there’s a magic to your secret name. And that was my secret name—the loss of my father and my brothers.”

Do you have a name no one can really pronounce? I know I do. Every now and then I sit around with good friends, and we sort of share, testing to see if the magic disappears when you say the secret name aloud.

I love that Colbert took the horror he lived through and turned to humor—first at Second City, then at “The Daily Show,” now with his own thing.

A lot of people use their experiences to help others, and God bless them. Some of us find other paths.


  1. This is brilliant. I’m guessing most of us wander around believing we have a secret name that defines us. If only we could tumble into Narnia where could live into our true names as kings and queens.

    Love the image I have of you and your son laughing together over Colbert. Love. It.

  2. Thank you for this link – I never knew this piece of Colbert’s story. But. Megan. Do you not believe that you help others? Please. Believe me when I say this to you. Every word you pen here helps others. Every. Single. One. Your smiling face helps others. Your tears and your anger, they help others, too. I wait for the day when you will give yourself a stinkin’ break, you know?

  3. Hi Megan,
    what a gift to have something you can share and connect with your 16 y/o…hmm, you’ve made me think about what a secret name is…and delayed grief…Thank you, and blessings 🙂

  4. Thanks for the link, dear Megan. And I’m with Diana–what you do matters. A LOT. To a lot of folks, including me. 🙂 And that poem about doing dishes? Wow. Doing dishes is for me a meditative time, so I usually only let the kids unload the dishwasher. I rinse, and clean the counters, and mop the floor. After all, they’re boys. They don’t do it thoroughly enough…AND they leave while I’m doing it (lest I ask them to help) so I know I will have peace and quiet. Love you!