With love from Heaven

My little girls are still keeping their sister alive

Published by: Amy Thompson
Published on: 22nd March 2010

Funny how a single written word can be so powerful. Love, hope, happiness… there are so many words that can fill us with joy.
For me, though, there are two words that mean everything, two words that remind me not of how much I’ve lost in life, but how much I’ve been given, and they
are love Payton.
It was the same every year when I opened my Mother’s Day card, surrounded by my three little girls Ellie, five, Payton, two, and Keeley, one.
In Ellie’s wobbly handwriting was my name at the top, followed by hers at the bottom wedged between the messy scribbles of Payton and Keeley who’d insisted on signing their own names – even though they couldn’t write!
Poor Ellie barely had enough room to squeeze the five little letters she needed in, not that she minded of course.
‘It’s from all of us,’ she’d beam, wrapping her arms around Payton and Keeley. They were so close. Maybe more so because of Payton’s condition.
She’d been diagnosed with methylmalonic acidemia as a baby. It meant her body couldn’t process certain proteins and fats.
As a baby, she’d been very sick, losing a lot of weight instead of putting it on.
At first, me and my hubby Lee, 34, were told there was nothing wrong. But tests confirmed otherwise.
Since the doctors had diagnosed her condition, she had to have her food and drink specially prepared and weighed out every day, as well as taking medication to help her body digest it.
Payton never let it bother her, though. The only thing she hated was going into hospital. Ellie had used her passion for writing to help Payton through the tough hospital visits and daily injections.
She adored Payton. She was always making storybooks for her, folding pieces of paper in half and drawing a front cover.
‘Then the princess ran into the castle…’ she’d read from her book as Payton snuggled beside her in the room they shared.
I couldn’t help smiling as I watched them quietly from the doorway, remembering how they’d come to share a room.
I’d always expected Payton’s first word to be Mama, or Dada. I’d looked forward to it so much, always holding her up and looking into her big blue eyes as I mouthed the words, hoping she’d catch on.
Only, Payton was more interested in her big sis. The minute Ellie came home from school, she’d dump her schoolbag on the floor…
‘Hiya,’ Ellie would call, as Payton toddled over to give her a hug.
I suppose it was only to be expected then that when I woke up one morning to hear Payton utter her first word it wasn’t my word she was mimicking… ‘Hiya, hiya, hiya,’ Payton babbled in her cot.
When Keeley started talking, too, the pair of them would wake me up at 5am every day chatting to each other from their cots side by side in mine and Lee’s room.
‘Hiya!’ they shouted, grinning and getting louder each time.
Looking at the clock, I let out a groan as they jabbered away.
‘That’s it,’ I told Ellie one day. ‘Pick a sister.’
‘What for?’ she replied.
‘To share your room,’ I said. ‘They can’t keep waking me and your dad up if they’re across the hall from each other.’
Ellie hadn’t hesitated.
‘Payton,’ she nodded eagerly.
They spent every minute they could together. The word ‘close’ didn’t quite cover just how strong their sisterly bond was.
I was glad. I loved watching the pair of them having fun.
But somewhere at the back of my mind, I worried. We’d never kept the fact Payton was poorly from Ellie – Keeley was still too young to understand. But we’d never told Ellie just how poorly she was either.
Then Payton, approaching her third birthday, went downhill. Watching my lively blonde-haired girl hooked up to machines and drips, I still couldn’t bring myself to face what was happening.
Payton had caught an infection, and was fitting 20 times a day. She was so weak, she couldn’t even open her gorgeous blue eyes.
‘I’m afraid she doesn’t have long left,’ her doctor told us gently. ‘A week at most.’
‘No…’ I shook my head, even though I’d known it was coming.
It doesn’t really matter how much time you’re given to prepare, how many comforting words people around you provide – nothing, not even knowing it’s coming, can shield you from the pain of losing a child. I was watching my girl fade away…
Only, she wasn’t ready to go just yet. For 12 weeks, she defied the doctor’s prediction – but she was getting worse.
‘Payton’s always hated hospital, Mummy,’ Ellie said when I took her in to see her little sis.
She was right. And suddenly I realised why Payton had been fighting so hard for so long – she didn’t want to die in hospital, the place she hated most.
Taking our little girl to my parents’ house, suddenly she opened her eyes for the first time in weeks. ‘Hiya Payton,’ my dad smiled sadly, holding her hand.
Looking around the room at each of us, recognition flashed across her eyes and a weak smile spread across her face – she was home again.
Then her eyes fluttered shut. They never opened again.
We were all heartbroken – such a simple word that could never get across the pain, the numbness, the hole ripped in our souls.
Everything reminded us of Payton, yet none of us could find the words to talk about her, not even Ellie. For weeks, she didn’t write her stories.
It was nothing compared to the dread I felt that Mother’s Day though… Opening my card with Ellie and Keeley, I fought back the tears I knew would come the moment I saw the empty space where a third name should be.
‘Dear Mummy,’ I read aloud, my voice trembling. ‘Happy Mother’s Day. Love Ellie, love Keeley…’ I froze. The last two words caught me totally by surprise.
‘Love Payton,’ I finished quietly.
Looking up, Ellie’s smile beamed back at me. ‘It’s from all of us,’ she said. ‘Payton sends her love from heaven now.’
I thought it would’ve been years before I could bring myself to talk about Payton again, but listening to Ellie chat about her sister I found myself laughing at the memories.
Things started to get easier.
One day, watching Ellie scribbling a note on a piece of paper, she suddenly looked up at me. ‘Payton can read in heaven, can’t she, Mummy?’ Ellie asked.
I stared back at her, confused.
‘I’m writing her a letter,’ Ellie explained. ‘I’m going to put it in a balloon and send it to her.’
My heart melted. ‘Yes, darling,’ I said. ‘She can.’
It’s been two years since Payton died now, and Ellie still sends her letters to heaven. We all do, actually. Ellie even wrote another story a couple of weeks ago – all about her little sister.
And every year, I get a Mother’s Day card signed from them all.
When Payton died, I never thought anything could fill the hole she left behind. But thanks to Ellie, her stories, and thanks to those two words she wrote in a Mother’s Day card, I’ve realised Payton will never leave us.
My little girl is keeping her sister’s memory alive – and there aren’t enough words to describe how thankful I am for that.
Emma Evans, 29, Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan