When I returned to my parish in Tanzania after a journey to the United States because of my mother's serious sickness and death, the local Christians gave me plenty of pole, the Swahili equivalent of sympathy or condolence. My good friends Robert and Maria, at whose marriage I had officiated, came to express sympathy and show me their new baby, born when I was away.

"Padri," Thomas said, "in our African tradition, when a person dies, he or she does not just disappear but remains part of our community. We often name the next child after the deceased to preserve this ongoing memory. We want to baptize our newborn girl with the name of Virginia to continue your mother's presence among us."

At that moment, Maria put little Virginia into my arms and said, "Your mother wants to greet you." Tears came to my eyes, but I was very happy.

Joseph G. Healey, Once Upon A Time in Africa