What’s in a name?

My growing up buddies would sieze on the names of our fathers and use them to refer to one another. My father’s name is Terrel. “Can’t put nothing past Terrel’s boy,” a friend might say. One friend’s father was named Quinten. We’d say something like, “Only the best for Quinten’s boy.”

I’m the lastborn of five children. Mom would often recite the whole slate of names before getting it right. “Toby, Deb-Brent-Ter, Greg!” I learned to answer to most any name, be it Terrel’s boy, Mom’s new name poem of the day, or whatever my brothers made up for me, such as Persmiggin. Don’t ask me for an etimology of that one.

Wasn’t it Shakespeare who said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet?” What if we called someone by the names we are not? Though the idea of “Protestant” embodies much more, it is still used as a word for “not Catholic.” Other religious groups end up named or referred to by what they are against.

Perhaps my friends weren’t too far off calling one another after our fathers. Interestingly, a Ugandan son does not typically take the last name of his father but sometimes his grandfather or other ancestor. A mother, on the other hand, actually gets a new name after her first-born child. Our first-born has the middle name after my grandmother’s first name, Grace, who died the day before Ashley Grace was born. So Ugandans to this day call Jill, Mama Grace.

There’s more to the story of Ashley and my grandmother. Grandma Grace died the morning of November 21, 1993. Our first baby was due any day. I went to Bartlesville for the funeral. Jill went to Houston because that’s where our insurance would cover the hospital birth. Toward the end of that long day, I got a call from Jill. “You’ve gotta come. It’s time.” I panicked.

The family went into action making calls, got me a flight, and Toby took me to Tulsa. I was in the air within a couple of hours of that call. I made my first “airphone” call. I asked the flight attendant to ask the pilot if he could go faster, that a potential new father was onboard. She grinned and patted me on the shoulder and probably had a good laugh with the pilot.

I arrived in time for the birth just after midnight. We changed our plans for Ashley’s middle name. We called her Ashley Grace Taylor, in honor of Grandma Grace. And new life for the Taylor family screamed from the hospital that is across the street from Houston NASA Mission Command. Amazing Grace.

There is something in a name. This morning I pledged again to be a good son, to honor the name of Jesus, to call God “My Father” and to be named after him.

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