Peyton was an amazing boy.
He had beautiful red hair, piercing hazel eyes that changed from green to blue, and a quirky sense of humor.
He was born at 31 weeks gestation and weighed only 2.52 lbs. He spent 35 days in the NICU before being able to come home. While in the hospital, he spent 3 weeks on pure oxygen. What wasn’t known then was that the oxygen was causing a discoloration in the enamel of his permanent teeth – a problem that we wouldn’t see for several years.
In second grade, the teasing began. “Why don’t you brush your teeth?” Why are your teeth so nasty?” and many other hurtful questions and comments were made. You see, although his teeth were healthy, they were a mottled yellow color, kind of like the color of a popcorn kernel. He was also picked on because of his hair, his glasses and the fact that he was smaller than most of the other boys. He was seen as weak and became a target.
As Peyton got older, he often wondered why people were so mean to him and to others. He would ask his mother, Jacki, “Mom, why can’t people just be nice?” She never really knew how to answer that question, so she tried to encourage him to be the nice one. She also told him all the things a parent tells a child – that he was special, that he was smart, that he was loved. However, as Peyton became a pre-teen, the words of a parent began to pale in comparison to the words of his peers.
In November of 2013, Peyton had his first suicidal event. He had been continually tormented by several boys at his school and the school couldn’t or didn’t help him, or at least they didn’t help him in a way that he could see and feel. After days of comments of everyone else being better off without him his mother took him to the hospital. He soon began therapy and seemed to be feeling better. But this was short-lived.
In the summer of 2014, his mother – a teacher – got a new job in a better school district, but this meant Peyton would have to change schools. His parents tried to help him see that this was a new beginning and that the bullies from his previous school would be a thing of the past. As he started 8th grade at his new school, he met one boy with whom he had common interests and they became friends. However, the teasing and bullying continued at this school too. Peyton was an easy target because he didn’t like what other kids liked. He didn’t play sports, he loved Dr. Who, YouTube and anime, and would rather read a book than play outside. He was soon being called a “loser” or a “geek.” He was devastated.
On October 8, after an incident at his school the day before, Peyton and his mom came home from school. Peyton went into his room, as typical of teenage boys. His mom thought he just needed some time alone. After about 20 minutes, she went to check on him and found him. He had hung himself from the ceiling fan. There was no warning and no note.
After a frantic call to 911 and 25 minutes of CPR by paramedics, Peyton was transported to the local hospital and then taken by helicopter to Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin, TX. The doctors did everything they could to stabilize him and to allow him to heal, but the injury to his brain was just too severe. On October 13, 2014 at 12:02 in the morning, Peyton was pronounced brain dead. At 8:30 that night, he gave his last and most profound gift by donating his organs, corneas and skin. He saved the lives of 6 people and enhanced the lives of countless others.
Peyton is loved and missed by everyone who knew him and thousands of people that never had the chance to meet him. It is through his memory that Kindness Matters was born and it will be his legacy.
If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or a loved one or are in need of emotional support, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to speak directly with a trained professional who can help. The Lifeline is available 24/7 across the United States. 1-800-273-8255