I know, that "lifeline" is:

  1. a thing on which someone or something depends or which provides a means of escape from a difficult situation.
  2. a rope or line used for life-saving, typically one thrown to rescue someone in difficulties in water or one used by sailors to secure themselves to a boat.

But I have no idea how to connect "name" and "lifeline" in the sentence below. Thank you for your kind help :)

The next thirty minutes are the longest and slowest of my life. His words bounce around my head, refusing to stick: Small cell lung cancer. Stage 4. It’s not good. “Lex?” he says my name as if it’s a lifeline, and I realize I haven’t said a word. “How could this happen? You’re too young.”

Alison Hammer "You, Me, and Us"

2 Answers 2


He is in adversity and seeks help. He desperately clings to her name as if it's a lifeline, a source of salvation, a solution to his difficulties, a consolation to his despair.

It's a metaphorical and rather poetic usage. Calling someone's name might be of little help, but to him it's meaningful, it refers to/symbolises her. He looks for reply/support/help/advice/explanation/words of consolation from her.

Slowly I began to fill up some of the emptiness inside — writing had become my lifeline.

The girls, of course, were my lifeline during this time.

  • 2
    Yes, he's using the name to pull the person out of their state of non-responsiveness, saving this person from their stupor. This works on a lot of levels. The person is not responding (which is like being dead). The person has a potentially fatal illness, cancer. The person likely needs to act (movement being like swimming, non-movement being like drowning). The "he" calling their name repeatedly is metaphorically throwing a lifeline to pull this person out of their peril (overwhelmed state of drowning in their emotional upset).
    – Edwin Buck
    Mar 29, 2021 at 18:39

"He says my name as if it's a lifeline." So the other person said his name as if saying his name would save him. That is, that this other person's expression of concern for the writer would save him. The writer was told that he had cancer -- presumably a very scary thing. He desperately needs some compassion and support from others. So when this other person says his name, he feels that that is an expression of support. Presumably the person didn't say it in some offhand way, like, "Oh, Lex, nice to see you. So what's on TV?" But in a way that expressed concern and offered comfort.

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