by Sydney Vickers
When I think of Peyton, I see his dancing blue eyes and dimples. I see him doing what he loved most – helping others be their best. I see him wearing his University of Miami football shirt and celebrating a win. I see us walking hand-in-hand exploring a new city. I see him on the golf course. I see him at the grill and reading his paper on the patio. I see him at my side, always at my side.
When I think of Peyton I try not to see the cancer that took him in 24 months. I try not to remember hearing the diagnosis of esophageal cancer and the subsequent rounds of chemo, radiation and brutal surgery. I try not to remember a stranger telling me that the cancer had spread to his bones and that he had six months to live. I try not to remember Peyton’s face when I told him the news. I try not to remember when we were told to call Hospice.
When I think of Peyton I want to always be grateful for his worry over me and the way he wrote lists of things for me to do after his death. I want to thank him for his little book called the AP Book (After Peyton) with names and phone numbers of plumbers, electricians – anyone I might need to help with the house, finances or life in general. I want Peyton to know how much I appreciate how hard he fought for life, celebrating our 28th anniversary just a week before he died.
When I think of Peyton I want to thank God for our last hour together. I thank God for bringing Peyton back to consciousness to mouth the words “I love you” over and over. I thank God for giving me the time to tell him how much I loved him, how wonderful our lives had been together and how he had prepared me to go on alone. I thank God for being there when I asked Peyton if he saw a light, if he saw his mother, if he saw God. I thank God for letting me see him look over and his eyes light up. I thank God for giving me the words to tell Peyton that it was okay to go to them. I thank God for letting me hold Peyton when he looked back at me, closed his eyes and took his last breath.
Two years have passed since I wrote those words. They are no less true today. Time has not blurred or softened the edges. It has given clarity. Peyton did everything possible to prepare me for life without him. That was his final gift completed just days before his death. Peyton’s love, strength and unrelenting desire to make certain I was going to survive continue to force me to move forward. I have floundered and made many false starts, but that’s ok. I learned and I grew. I learned that our society is sadly ignorant of death. We hide from it. We ignore it. We fear it and we fear those who are touched by it. Every instance is termed a shock, yet it is the one constant in our lives after birth. I want to help change that.
My goal is to change public knowledge, attitudes and behavior towards dying, death and bereavement. It is my hope that I will be able to share Peyton’s final gift to me. This is his dream and his legacy, and through it his love and his spirit live on in the lives and hearts of others.
About the Author: Sydney is a 56 year old South Floridian. She has worked for Southern Bell/BellSouth/AT&T since she was 21 in a variety of sales and management roles. She met her husband through work and was married to him for twenty-eight years. Sydney is a certified bereavement counselor and a runner who loves designing and stitching needlepoint. The current love of her life is a red standard poodle named Faith. She started a Facebook page on the second anniversary of Peyton’s death titled, Until Death Do We Part, as a repository for practical information dealing with death and dying.