Tuesday, October 13, 2015

To Peyton, One Year After Your Death

Dear Peyton,

It is hard to imagine that it has been a year since you left us.  I guess I could throw out all the cliches about not a day going by that I don't miss you, or that you are always on my mind because they are true, but you are more than just a cliche, you are my son.  You were then in life, and now you are in death.

at 12:02 AM on October 13, 2014, you were pronounced legally dead by the doctors at Dell Children's Medical Center, but that was your body.  I know who you were, your soul and personality had left your body long before that.  When Lisa, Emmy and I walked back across the parking lot that night to the Robnald McDonald House, we had said our good byes knowing that your pain was over and that you had gone to a place where "Everything was beautfil, and nothing hurt."

When I woke up that morning, the only thing I knew for sure was that we had to plan your funeral.  As a parent, this was something I had never planned on doing.  It went against the natural course of action.  You were supposed to grow up to be a successful vet, to have a family and a big house, to give me adoring grandchildren to spoil, and have a room set aside for me in my old age to live in. Instead, I found myself in an office at a church telling a stranger about you so that they could say the right words to cpture who you were (fortunately they did), and to choose songs for them to play during the service.  I chose Golden Slumbers/The Long and Winding Road by The Beatles and The Dance by Garth Brooks, which was also played at your Grandma's funeral.  Once we had planned the service, we went to a funeral home to flan the rest.  You would have been proud of your Uncle Mike and how he took control at the first place, which treated the family with little to no respect.  We walked out and went to another, where we were treated with the compassion a grieving family deserves, and we knew our wishes and your memory would be honored.

Once we headed back to Houston, I had no idea how I would go on with my life.  I just knew that I was not going to let your death be in vain.  I would make sure that you would never be forgotten, never be just another statistic, and never would I tell anyone less than the truth about what happened to you.  I started #Products4Peyton to repay the kindness that the people at the Ronald McDonald House showed us.  I used the opportunity to speak out and raise awareness of suicide, bullying and mental illness, and to my surprise, people responded.  We delivered more than 150 boxes of supplies in your name, that went straight to families in a time of crisis.

I have spoken about the lives you saved.  Your organs and corneas went to help others.  From an 8 month old baby, a seven year old girl, a seventeen year old boy and others all were given hope because of you.

I have spoken at schools to bring awareness of the problems that you faced and dealt with.  I wanted kids to know that they are not alone in the world, that they are not the only ones that feel "weird or "different", and that they don't have to let others make them feel ashamed of who they are.

I have spoken to legislators, and with the help of others, especially Coach Kevin Childers and the good folks of Fairfieled, Texas, saw Governor Abbott sign a law requiring all teachers. counselors, administrators, and others, to be trained yearly in suicide awareness and prevention.  It hasn't been accepted with open arms by all, but it is a start.

I have spoken to parents who have children that deal with the same issues you did, and because of you, they are seeing their kids in a different light.  They now know that it is ok to talk to their kids, and, even better, are seeking the help they need.  Peyton, your story is saving lives.

I have also spoken to parents who have lost their children the same way I lost you.  I have talked about your love of life, your infectious personality, your giving and compassionate soul, and how you have made me a better person.  I have told them how it is ok to talk about what happened to their child, how to be open and honest with others.  How I tell your story in hopes that others may learn from it, and that they can do the same in the name of their loved one.

In February, an incredible woman in New jersey named Jill Kubin, and her two daughters, Julia and Emily heard about your story and wanted to help.  They collected winter hats in your name to help the homeless and less fortunate.  I know how compassionate you are and how much you liked helping others. This past July, Jill created the #PeytonHeartProject.  Small hearts with positive affirmations are left where people can find them.  The project is meant to bring public awareness to suicide bullying,  and the stigma of mental illness.  The project has gone global, and your memory has helped so many people.  I see messages every day from people that have dealt with many of the same issues you did, and have found strength through you.  You have made a difference in their lives.

I wanted you to know all that you have accomplished since your death.  Myself and others are simply carrying on the message you started in your heart.  My life, and the lives of those that have been touched by your spirit will never be the same. When I talked to Leslie, the mother of Carmel the little girl that received one of your corneas, she told me that you gave her and her family hope.  You need to know the effect you have had on the world, and what you are bringing to so many, Peyton, hope.
As Andy told Red in Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,"...hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

Good night Boo.  Daddy loves you very much.