This place, where we go several times a year. The place where we leave flowers, holiday wreaths, birthday balloons, and symbols of life. The place where we remember that this is where our son took his last breath. This place is the roadside marker on the side of a busy highway where our oldest child was killed. We visit here to try to feel his presence, and to let every passing motorist know that there is a family connected to that marker. A family that has an empty seat at the table and who is missing a piece of their hearts. We decorate the marker with things that would make Louis smile – a teddy bear, an owl representing his great-grandmother and beads during Gasparilla. A Christmas wreath with his favorite things on it – a dog, a cat, presents, Santa Claus, candy canes, a red car. Red roses to represent elegance, and butterflies to represent the signs we see from him.
Louis enjoyed life, and having fun. At 26 years old, he was just settling in to a career that he was passionate about, and at the same time, enjoying newfound friends. He loved to laugh, and told jokes to make others laugh. He was a good friend to others, and would do anything he could for his family and friends. Louis was often found talking with friends late at night, helping them through a difficult situation, or just talking about their days. There were people touched by Louis’ smile and fun-loving spirit that will remember him forever. People that were impacted by the shock of his young life taken away by a drunk driver.
One of my favorite pictures is all three of our children, who decided during a family photo opportunity that they should do a ‘stackable’ picture. Louis, being the oldest, was on the bottom, his brother was perched on top of him, and their sister sat on the top of them both! We have continued to take stackable pictures of us in various ways, always remembering that Louis started that idea.
My husband and I have made it our mission to create awareness about the devastating consequences of impaired driving, the importance of making life-saving choices, and valuing our loved ones each day. In spite of losing our son, we are able to share stories of Louis with others – keeping his memory alive.
Written by Sharon Hall