When I was sixteen years old, I decided that if I ever had a daughter, I wanted to give her the middle name Louise.
When I was sixteen years old, you see, my mother's best friend, Louise Trotter, was killed in a car accident.
I loved Louise. A lot. Although I've thought about her more than ever over the past year, I've been surprised to realize that I don't remember nearly as much about her as I would have thought. I remember her distinctive voice, her hearty laugh, her sparkly eyes. But most of all I remember how happy my mother would be whenever she came to visit. My mama is a pretty happy person to begin with, but when Louise came to town they would laugh and talk for hours, and the whole house would be filled with joy.
Louise was a musician; she and my parents met in band at Ohio State University. She also had a doctorate in children's literature, and taught reading to elementary school children. At her memorial, in the midst of such grief and shock, I remember staring at the cross in the sanctuary and thinking: I can't have known Louise and not make my life worth something. I didn't feel I had to do something big; I felt I had to do something important, and that it should definitely have something to do with words and stories and laughter and music.
I hope that Juliette Louise's life is filled with words and stories and laughter and music. And wonderful friends. Which is to say I hope that her life is filled with joy, just like our house was when her namesake visited.