Naming a person is not an easy task. There are so many issues to consider. Is this name so common that my child will constantly share it with 17 other people throughout their school years? Is this name so bizarre that my child will spend the rest of their life guiding people through pronounciation or spelling and explaining their parents' need to set him apart? How many mean and spiteful variations can be created from my child's name? Is there a famous person/character that my child will constantly be compared to?
Aaron and I wanted a name that would mean something to us and - hopefully - eventually mean something to our child. Way back in 2003, right after we married, we chose the name Jake Everett if we ever had a boy and Elizabeth Grace if we ever had a girl. (I won't go into the reasoning here because this post is probably going to be too long already.) Then, in 2008, my brother and sister-in-law viciously stole the name Jake from us (I'm joking - I'm joking), and somewhere along the way the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise made me eliminate the name Elizabeth Turner from consideration. And we were back to Square One. Of course, we also were childless unless you count a menagerie of animals which you can name things like "Stupid" without worrying about scarring them for life. (Seriously, my mom had a cat named Stupid. No joke.) So we put off the naming choice and figured something would slap us in the face if the time ever came.
I think it was some time in 2009 when we were sitting on the couch watching Lord of the Rings and talking about the character of Samwise Gamgee. We love LOTR. We own every DVD ever released and three different versions of the books. We love the multi-dimensional story and the depth of the characters. And Samwise Gamgee is our favorite. We think he's the hero of the story. Sure, Frodo carries the ring and Aragorn defeats his own demons and the rest of Middle Earth to become king. But Samwise Gamgee is the backbone behind Frodo's accomplishment. He's kind and loyal and gentle, but he'll also throw himself in front of any danger to protect his friend and stand up for what he believes is right and just. Even Tolkien, himself, called Samwise the "chief hero" of the saga in one of his personal letters.
So back in 2009 (I think) we were sitting on the couch eating popcorn, and we watched the scene in The Two Towers where Frodo says he "wouldn't have got far without Sam". And we both stopped and just stared at each other. And we knew that if we ever had a son we would name him Sam. I think I went and grabbed my Bible right then, and we read the story of Hannah and Samuel. We never even had to finish the conversation because we knew the decision was made.
Last November, when the little stick showed two lines instead of one like it had so many times before, we avoided the "name conversation" for about 12 weeks. I think we needed time to wrap our brains around everything. I think we also needed to keep an emotional distance as much as possible considering the history we had experienced. Once we got past 12 weeks and my doctor pronounced us "over the hump" and out of "the danger zone" we had to talk about names.
We originally decided to keep the middle name, Everett. Aaron has two middle names - Elias Everett - after two grandfathers. We liked the sound of Samuel Everett Turner, and so the decision was made. But something was nagging at me. I still can't put my finger on exactly what it was, but I think it had to do with the fact that Aaron didn't really have any emotional connection to the person he was named after. He didn't have any memories or stories. And I felt like having that connection to a name was important. I wanted to be able to tell my child stories about how he was named, and I wanted to be able to pass on something important through that name. And there was one name that I couldn't let go.
In January 2010, my dear friend Ben lost his courageous battle with cancer. Wilfred Bennett Andersen. Ben was my junior high Bible class teacher back in 1992-94. He became so much more to me as the years went by, but it all started in that hectic classroom full of obnoxious 7th and 8th graders. Ben was that perfect blend of wisdom and childlike enthusiasm. He could teach a class and make us think deeply, and then he could turn around and challenge us to a belching contest - and make no mistake, he'd win! At church camp he was famous for giving wedgies, mercilessly dunking you in the icy cold water at the creek, and being able to "clear a room" (if you know what I mean). But he could lead a devotional with such sincerity that you couldn't help but be affected by his passion. He was full of mischief and innocent pranks, but he was also full of love and compassion. He never seemed to take life so seriously that he couldn't find time to laugh, but he knew when to be calm and introspective. I don't know of one person who knew him that didn't love him. A church full of people testified to that on the day of his funeral.
And that's what we want for our son.
We want to teach him to be loyal, kind, and compassionate while not being afraid to fight when necessary - like Samwise Gamgee. We want to teach him what it means to live a life dedicated to God - like the biblical Samuel. And we want to teach him how to enjoy that life while making an impact along the way - like Ben Andersen. It's an awfully tall order. But, as parents, if we can teach our son to value the things we value in the stories and memories of Samwise Gamgee, Samuel, and Ben then Aaron and I think he'll grow into a man we can't help but be proud of.
And there you have it. Samuel Bennett Turner.