One Friday, our family had piled into the SUV and was heading out to a family dinner. Ian was prattling on from the back seat about something that only a 13 year old boy would find funny or interesting. Emmy was in a good mood and laughing at her brother. Suddenly out of nowhere, Emmy blurted out "Peyton is in Heaven with God." The car got very quiet before I responded by agreeing, "yes, he is". We had followed advice after Peyton's death, and told her the truth. Even though she was only two at the time, she seemed to understand. What happened next left us all speechless. She told us that she, "Played with Peyton every night in her imagination."
It took all my will to focus on the road in front of me. Although I have grown used to Emmy making random statements, after all, she is three and a half, and randomness is part of her personality, but this one hit me like a hammer. I have been struggling lately. In my blog entry Onward Through The Fog , I talked about the struggles of the second year as the reality of Peyton's suicide have really began to sink in. As we drove on, I began to think about she would remember her brother as she gets older. I decided to tell her all I could about their relationship so that she would never forget.
I want you to know about Peyton. First of all, know that he loved you. He wasn't able to be there when you were born, but thanks to the marvels of technology and wifi, he was able to see you shortly after you entered the world. I'll never forget the smile on his face as he looked down at his little sister. I knew then and there that you would hold a special place in his heart. He met you for the first time four days later. At the time, he was living in Round Rock with his mother. He only came to see us twice a month, but this visit was special. He was coming to see and hold you for the first time. He was so scared the first time he help you. Unlike Ian, who had two younger sisters at his dad's house, Peyton had never been around a baby before. The first time he held you, he was nervous. If I had to guess, he was afraid he might break you. Every time you moved or made a sound, he stiffened as though he had commit a flagrant sin. He eventually learned that it was alright for him to hold you and play with you.
Peyton loved to make you laugh, Emmy. Once he discovered he had the gift of entertaining you, it was a task he cherished. He would get on the floor with you and make your toys come to life. He possessed a gift for making your animals and dolls talk, and both of you loved it.
That's not to say all was sunshine and puppy dogs. Peyton wasn't always thrilled to have a little sister. Your presence meant that he no longer had Daddy all to himself. Not only that, but we were no longer able to get up and go on a whim. A baby meant a level of planning equal to the D-Day invasion, and spontaneous adventures were a thing of the past. However, when we did go out, he enjoyed being the big brother and pushing you in your stroller while making the obligatory engine noises.
Perhaps Peyton's favorite thing to do was take you on the carousel at the mall. He would volunteer his own money to take you on, walk you around to find your favorite animal, put you up, and buckle you in. I loved watching the two of you go round and round. Your face was flush with excitement, and Peyton's filled with pride for being such a good big brother and seeing the joy and excitement in your eyes.
I still remember that fateful October day. Your mommy and I picked you up from school and began the long journey to Austin to say good bye. It was hard for you to stay in the hospital with us, and there were times that we took you outside to run and play, but for a two year old, you did an impressive job. You would sit in my lap next to Peyton's bed, talk to him, and hold his hand. You were by Peyton's side when he left us. You were able to hold his hand, kiss him on the forehead and tell him goodbye.
We took you to the funeral home to see Peyton one last time before the funeral. You seemed a bit confused because we had told you Peyton had gone to heaven to be with God, but there he was. It is hard to explain the concept of a soul to a child, but you seemed to grasp it. You were so well behaved at the funeral. You sat quietly and listened to the service. Afterwards, you let people hug you and tell you how special your brother was.
Since Peyton's funeral, I have done everything I could to keep him alive for you. I have all the cards people sent us, newspaper articles, news stories, and of course, my collection of writings for you.
You have been a part of Peyton's memory too, Emmy. You helped deliver boxes to the Ronald McDonald House, you walked in the rain to help raise awareness of suicide, and you cuddled tightly with me on those days where I am just a bit overwhelmed. You and mommy and Ian have helped me through those dark days where I am overwhelmed.
This past Sunday, we had your 4th birthday party at ASI Gymnastics. You were so excited and reminded my so much of Peyton at that age. You ran around non-stop the entire time, going from one area to another, bouncing, swinging climbing, and sliding. How I wished that Peyton could have been there with you, playing alongside. I just hope that as you swung off the rope into the foam pit, that Peyton was there with you in your imagination.