Peyton was never a deep dark secret that I have kept to myself. I am very open and honest about his life and death. I am not embarrassed or ashamed into silence about my son. When Riley arrived, I never had any intention of keeping from her the fact that she, indeed, has a brother. I have a scrapbook devoted to him, I still hold onto most everything that we purchased for him and his ashes sit in a pretty little box in my living room. It was only going to be a matter-of-time before I would have to explain his short life to her.
I used to have all his stuff in a chest at the end of my bed. The chest was full of blankets, stuffies, clothes, cards, the works. The chest was also off limits for small prying hands. When Riley was around two, she discovered the huge stuffed Sully (from Monsters Inc.) that had been hiding in the trunk. She would smuggle it out and I would put it back. Everyday. She couldn’t have it. It was his and only his. To a two-year-old, I was just being mean and she didn’t get it. Finally I decided that maybe it was time to tell her in the most age-appropriate way I knew how. I told her that she could not get into that box because it was Peyton’s box and all that stuff in there was important to Mommy. She looked at me very bewildered and asked “Who Peyton?” I told her. Peyton was her brother. That was, of course, followed with…”Where is he?’ I told her that he was in heaven. He is an angel. He watches over us and helps to make sure she stays safe. Surprisingly enough, that was enough for her. It was almost like she already knew or she could feel him with her. She never really went after that Sully again and she stayed away from his trunk. There was a few things that she inherited from his stuff, a large stuffed Panda my grandmother had sent for him the Christmas I was pregnant, along with a fuzzy baby blanket. She still to this day sleeps with that Panda every single night. That same blanket was Lily’s favorite as a baby.
Right around the time I become pregnant with Lily, I went in to wake Riley up just as I did every single morning. She told me that Peyton had come to visit her that night. I asked her how her dreams were and she told me very matter-of-factly that it was NOT a dream. He had been there with her sitting right at the edge of her bed. I am sure the look on my face was priceless. I felt my eyes widen and my mouth drop. She told me how he came down and ran his fingers through her hair. He told her he was always with her and plays with her sometimes. He also told her that when God was making her for this Earth He had a special job just for Peyton. Peyton was allowed to choose her hair color and he chose blond. She told me that they had the same face. She does look just like what I envision Peyton looking like. I believe without a doubt that Peyton came to her that night. I actually think he comes to her very often. Riley talks about her brother all the time. He has literally been in her memory bank for as far back as she can remember. She cries for him. She misses him. She mourns the brother that came before her. They are very connected on a much more spiritual level than even I thought possible. I oftentimes wonder if they are the same soul, just in different bodies. When she would have really bad days, I would always tell her to close her eyes and just feel, smell, and listen. If she did that, then she would know he was there, his soft wings would wrap around her and she would be safe.
She tells strangers about Peyton. “Oh, ALL girls, wow” is usually what we hear a lot. She always rebus with “I have a brother but he is in Heaven.” Most times people really don’t know how to react, so they just glance at me and I shrug. I have told her that sometimes it is not appropriate to tell strangers that. She is just so proud of her brother who is an angel. She asks me endless questions about him… “What did he look like?” “Did he cry?” “Did he breastfeed?” Over and over again. Most of the time, I answer her, over and over again. Sometimes it is just too hard and I tell her to stop. I know she is curious and it makes me feel bad, but it can get a little overwhelming. When we went to visit the hospital where he was born she was there too. She saw me crying and that brought on more questions.
She tells Lily about Peyton, but Lily is oblivious. I am sure that, when the time is right, she will understand. Than we will get to go through it all over again with Harper. My girls will always have to deal with death and loss at a very young age and I try to make it seem as natural as possible. However one can do that…