Story Time: Herlin, What a Name

K. Joseph
2 min readAug 3, 2022


My mom’s first name is Herlin.

Randomly, I thought about her and her name last night.

I thought, “I’ve known no one else with that name.”

I googled it. Herlin seems to be a popular last name. There are notable people with the surname Herlin. They live outside the United States, in Finland, Germany, and France. One person had it as their first name. He is an American jazz musician named Herlin Riley. According to his website, “Herlin Riley is at the heart of this music — he is its pulse; he is its soul.”

My mother’s life was all about her children and then grandchildren. We had her heart, maybe even her soul.

That name, though. I wonder who chose the name for my mother. I never thought to ask her. So many people didn’t know her name. Everyone called her Lin. I wonder if she liked her name; I never asked her about this either.

I wish I had talked to my mother more. I only asked her questions about myself when I was a child. When I became an adult, I hardly had time for conversation beyond: “How are you?” or “What do you need?” I wish now that I had asked her about herself.

When she died, we cremated her body. As a result, there will be no burial plot to plant a tombstone carved with her name.

My mother and her name now rest in peace.

📸 of Herlin James from the collection of K. Joseph
📸 Herlin. Photographer: Unknown. K. Joseph owns copyright. Do not use in any way without permission.

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K. Joseph

Change management leader sharing ideas and experiences that may help you navigate the world of work with your fellow humans.