Written By Judy Weddle
Current Series: What Peyton Means To Me
Peyton Weddle was – and is – a beloved grandson. I am writing this blog not only from my own perspective but also from that of three of his other grandmothers. As with many families, ours is blessed by being a blended family. Marcia Walters is Peyton’s paternal grandmother; she passed away when he was only 3 years old. I (Grandma Judy) am Peyton’s paternal second-grandmother. Carolyn Montfort (Nana) is Peyton’s maternal grandmother; and Jennie Russell (JenJen) is his second-grandmother from his mother’s first marriage. The most important things about our blended family are that all of the grandmothers are grateful for our special bond with each other, and that we all love Peyton (as well as each of our living grandchildren and great-grandchildren) in the same way – with our grateful hearts.
A grandmother’s heart is quite special. When grandchildren are small, our heart is so excited to have the precious opportunities to just be around their playful and joyful energy. And when we are sufficiently exhausted, we can send them back to their parents! As they get a little older, our heart treasures the actual conversations we can have with them, because we can hear the way they are discovering so many things about their life and their world. When they become teenagers and young adults, our heart proudly watches them bloom into eager participants in their individual life-path callings. But also, throughout all the years, a grandmother’s heart worries, so she prays over her grandchildren: “Lord, help them to be happy…to feel fulfilled…to stay safe…to follow Your guidance.” And then, sometimes, as happened with Peyton, a grandmother’s heart is shattered when the Lord calls her beloved grandchild Home unexpectedly. There is no “putting the pieces back together” for a heart that shatters in this way. Nothing can change that or take that away. With time, however, and by God’s grace and mercy, Nana shared with me her realization and her conviction that this precious grandchild now has everything that we prayed for, for him, when he was here on earth with us – he is happy, fulfilled, and safe. There is no more need for our worries or our intercessory prayers. There is only love.
Grandma Marcia left us a journal that contains her heartfelt thoughts about toddler Peyton. In her entry for May 17, 1996, she wrote, “Another beautiful day here in Memphis. It’s early morning and the boys are still sleeping; what a peaceful time here. Thank you Lord. Mikki is up now and is feeling better, but is not ready to light any fires. What do I hear? A little voice – it’s Peyton! He’s getting so big – he’s so cute now that he’s walking all over. Help me Lord to be a good Gramma today. Thank you Jesus.”
Marcia was indeed a good Gramma. She lived in Michigan and visited Memphis as often as she could. In July, 1997 I accompanied Dan and Mikki, Braeden, Hunter, and Peyton on a vacation trip to visit lots of family in Wisconsin and Michigan, Gramma Marcia included. One day we went with Marcia to the beach on the Lake Michigan shore, and we all had a wonderful time. She played with the boys and built sand castles and splashed in the water with them. She helped them with their shoes and socks at a bounce-house, and laughed with them on the swings at a playground. She was so happy to be with them. She and I became very good friends, and I treasure the relationship we had. We were all so sad when she went home to be with the Lord in 1998. Now, however, Gramma Marcia is with Peyton all the time. I’m sure they had a wonderful reunion, “catching up” with each other when she was there to welcome him Home!
Grandmother JenJen shared with me that she has many fond memories of Peyton. Although she did not see him often, she would visit her son, Braeden’s dad, on weekends, and sometimes all of the little boys would be there to play with each other. Jennie told me, “Peyton always greeted me with open arms and that awesome smile. Even though we were not blood related, I always felt like he was partially mine, because he had a way of connecting with all who came in contact with him.” Jennie also shared with me a favorite memory of a grown-up Peyton. “My fondest memory of Peyton was at Braeden’s wedding. He pulled me aside and asked me questions about (one of the guests). He was very attracted to her and was telling me his strategy for ‘winning her affection.’ It makes me smile every time I recall the occasion.”
My (Grandma Judy’s) favorite memories of Peyton are scattered throughout his life, from babysitting to watching him play on sports teams, to sharing lunches and dinners and listening to him talk about his young adult plans and his dreams. I remember Peyton as a young boy being joyful and playful and energetic. He could also get mad and want his own way and tussle with his brothers, just like all little boys. Sometimes at sports events, while I was sitting at the sidelines, he and Hunter would “comb” my long hair and put my scrunchie back in, in funny ways. So cute. I remember how Peyton tried “regular” school one year in elementary school. He was brave and learned to be a mentor to other classmates. I remember thinking how significant that was. I remember how he took up golf as a teenager and really enjoyed that, even worked at a golf course. And he even made a hole-in-one and has his name a plaque on the wall at Southwind.
In 2010 I moved to Wisconsin to care for my elderly mom, so unfortunately I missed a lot of his everyday life from then on until he passed in 2016. But every time I came to visit Memphis, usually twice a year, I had lunch or dinner with him and caught up on his life. I loved to listen to what he was thinking about or planning or how he felt about various topics. One time he told me that he had tried fraternity life in college, but discovered that he wanted more than a “social” life. In 2014, Peyton and Hunter traveled up to Wisconsin to visit me, and we had a wonderful time. I picked them up at the train station in Chicago and we went to the Willis Tower and The Ledge, then walked along the shore of Lake Michigan. We took the train to Milwaukee, visited with family, toured a brewery, went to The Dells, and visited Whistling Straits golf course, which I think was Peyton’s favorite stop. The last time I visited with Peyton was in Memphis, in May of 2015. He had just come back from living in Seattle for a while, and was eager to tell me of his renewed focus and his plans for college and beyond. It sounded like he felt that the world was his for the asking. What a precious memory.
Peyton loved and connected well with all of his grandmothers, but I believe that the relationship Peyton had with his Nana was the most special, the most indicative of the kind of young man he had become, and the reason why the Peyitforward Foundation is even possible. Through being Carolyn’s “right arm” in her catering ministry, Peyton learned to have a “servant’s heart.” Nana said that Peyton “never met a stranger,” and that by his “acceptance of all people,” he “set the tone for catering as a ministry.” She added that Peyton knew he was “serving the Lord by serving His people.” Nana was so proud of Peyton, for she saw that he had developed a “mature understanding” of the God-given dignity of all people, and that treating all persons with respect and caring was the best way to live life.
Nana was very happy to say that Peyton learned and perfectly carried out her “system” for patiently, carefully, and safely loading and unloading her van at catering venues. He also graciously served the guests and then humbly washed the dishes in the kitchen. Afterwards, he always walked Nana to her van to make sure she was safe, gave her a kiss, and told her he loved her. Today Nana says that even though Peyton passed on February 21st, she treasures the 16th as the anniversary date, because that is the last time she was with him, and the last time he walked her to her van, gave her a kiss, and told her he loved her. She says that “It was a privilege to have been his grandmother, and to have had him for 21 years.” I agree, Nana, with all my heart.
Peyton was and is a beloved grandson. He lived with eagerness and openness and at times with a certain wild abandon. He smiled. He laughed. And he loved. He gave it his all. He is greatly missed and will be forever loved. And through the Peyitforward Foundation, his servant heart will continue to serve the Lord and His people here on earth. I am honored and grateful to be a part of the Foundation, this ongoing tribute to a remarkable young man.