Other than “How’s the baby?” or “How’s Sunny?” or “Are y’all getting any sleep?”, the question I’ve been asked more than any other in the past two weeks has been in regard to Jackson’s middle name. “So…uh…why’d you name him ‘Cash’?” Some less musically-inclined querists actually thought we named him “Cash” as in “money”. Thus, I felt the need for a little clarification.
As a name, the word “Cash” means “peace”. After a pregnancy that could be characterized as anything but peaceful, we pray “peace” will be a more apropos description of Jackson’s post-utero life! But Jackson’s middle name is primarily due to my association of Johnny Cash with my father. Johnny Cash was one of my Dad’s heroes. Some of my fondest memories were the nights I spent with my Dad, his guitar propped on his knee, singing Folsom Prison Blues and I Walk the Line. These songs served as the soundtrack for my childhood and, more specifically, my relationship with my Dad. Cash’s music was something my father shared with me and I cherished it. I still nearly cry every time I hear Tennessee Flat-Top Box.
I think my Dad was drawn to Cash for his artistry, but also what he stood for. Sure, Cash was fallible — as the 2005 biopic Walk the Line proved. But it was his humanity that also made him a humanitarian. Fueled by the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:36 (“I was in prison, and you came to visit me”), Cash bravely ventured into the halls of San Quintin and Folsom prisons to perform for inmates on death row. In The Man Comes Around: The Spiritual Journey of Johnny Cash, Dave Urbanski writes, “The cons love him. He’s one of them. Part of the family. Close to the earth. Familiar with struggle. A truth teller. And Johnny loves the cons, too.” As he sang about in his song Man in Black, Cash shared a special kinship with the downtrodden, the overlooked, the forgotten. So, too, did my father. And so do I.
And so, I’ve inherited my father’s hero. Moreover, Cash represents everything I want my son to be: a man comfortable in his own skin, cognizant of his imperfections, but confident in his Savior. His name represents part of my prayer for him: that, just as his namesake, he might be a voice for those who have no voice. His life itself is a gift that one day, on that far distant shore, I’ll be able to share with my father in a place where fathers and sons never have to say goodbye ever again.
Until then, this is my son. And yes, his name is Cash.