The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. -Mark Twain
Next Saturday, it will be two years since Peyton, my 13 year old son, came home from school, went to his room and hung himself. He clung to life for five days, but his injuries were too severe and he passed away on October 13, 2014. Not a day goes by that I do not miss him, mourn him, cry for him, and wish that God would have taken me instead of him.
I had just gotten in my truck to leave work. My day had been sh*tty, and I just wanted to get home. I was sitting in the truck, trying to catch my breath from a sprint through the driving rain, when my phone rang. I saw it was Jacki, Peyton's mother, and thought seriously about letting it go to voicemail. I didn't want to deal with any more drama at that moment, but something made me answer.
All she said was, "David, you need to speak to this police officer," In the second it took for her to hand the phone over, my mind raced through several scenarios from "there has been an accident" to "Peyton's temper has finally gotten the best of him."
The officer took the phone "Sir, this is Officer So and So (I remember so many details of that day, but names still elude me) of the Georgetown Police Department. Peyton James has hung himself." With those five words, my world turned upside down forever.
I sat in my truck, in that empty parking lot, momentarily stunned, listening to the rain pound on the roof before I completely lost it. I screamed, yelled, beat on the steering wheel and the roof of the cab with all my might. I bargained with God and offered my life for Peyton's. Through tears and snot I kept screaming, "Dear God take me," but he didn't. Never had I felt so convicted about something as I did at that moment.
When we arrived at the hospital, the doctor took us aside and told us about Peyton's injuries. Because of the trauma to the organs from the CPR and the lack of oxygen, there was the possibility of organ damage. When the doctor said that, there was never any doubt that if Peyton needed a kidney, a liver, heel, even a heart, I would be first in line to donate.
Over the next five days, I sat by Peyton's side as he drifted further and further away. I held his hand and once again, bargained with God to take my life and spare Peyton's. In a time of helplessness, when everything else was beyond my ability to aide my son, it was all I could do. I hoped that every time I closed my eyes, I would open them to nothingness, or to a bright light that was drawing me closer. I even went to the chapel in the hospital to offer myself. Unfortunately, God was not in a mood to bargain, and my pleadings went unanswered until it was too late and Peyton was gone.
I know I am not the first parent to offer myself as they sat at their child's bedside, nor was it the first for me. From the time Peyton was a baby with his first of many ear infections, to his first stitches, to knocking out a tooth, I wanted to take away his pain and anguish. I would have gladly carried that pain with me to alleviate him, but now it was for keeps, but I was still willing and wanting to change places. I think that is part of being a parent. We all go out of our way to take care of and protect our kids. We want what is best for our kids and sacrifice for ourselves.
Now it has been almost two years. Peyton would have been a sophomore in high school. He would be old enough to get his learner's permit and beg me to let him drive. He would have been coming up with a theatrical way to ask girls to homecoming. He would have been arguing with me about everything from grades to curfew. Instead, his ashes sit on my dresser and gather dust. His room is slowly being converted to an office. His step-brother is buying a suit for homecoming, and his sister is already planning her fifth birthday. All of the things Peyton could have been and done are nothing but assumption and speculation.
As for me, my life goes on slowly and methodically. I think about all of the aggravation and headaches Peyton would be causing, all the unreasonable demands he would be making, the money he would ask for, and the future he would be planning. I still want that for him. If God has a way to change the past, I would still let him take me so that Peyton could live his life. Just so you know, Peyton, I would still die for you.