Pey was born during a storm of babies in Winchester, Virginia on March 12, 2007. He was two weeks late. A Pitocin– fueled induction a few days earlier hadn’t especially motivated him and I maintain it took a huge meal of Mexican food to finally get him rolling into the world. He was born with the longest fingers I’ve ever seen- fingers he instantly clasped together like a little Buddha, already at peace with the world. His eyes eventually become the color of milk chocolate, but at the time they were the deep, dark, quiet blue of ocean depths.
His first year is a blur of exhaustion and quadruple- guessing myself. Here is what I remember: he slept through the night in less than a month, he loved when I sang Bob Marley to him, he played with his poop, and he had continual earaches. He was largely content with whoever held him, but he always sought me out like a backpacker looking for the sun in the middle of the forest.
By two years old he was my favorite biking partner. We biked the mountains of Shenandoah County, Virginia- him in a cumbersome bike seat, giggling and babbling away as he pulled down the waist of my bike shorts, showing my bun-buns to any unfortunate passer-bys. We biked the farmland of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania- him sitting like a mohawked little king in a bike trailer. In more recent years we planned to be a life-long peloton of two- him saying he always worried about me biking alone and that he would keep me safe.
Pey had speech apraxia and didn’t clearly speak until closer to five or six years old. At the time this was worrisome, but in retrospect I’m thankful for a time period where him and I had a secret language. He was always so easily happy.
He played soccer and football. He played video games. He loved to swim. He loved flowers. He loved the ocean. He loved pranks. He loved music. He was kind. He accepted and appreciated people as they were and without critique. He made me give money to the homeless, saying “If they have to ask, does it matter what the reason is?” He was happiest when the people he was with were happy. He was an old soul who thought deeply. He talked about how society creates villains when we watched superhero movies, that people that are mistreated in turn mistreat people. He asked about negative numbers in kindergarten. He said that his generation had too many ways to hurt each other and that they did it all the time, but that there was still hope.
Pey was diagnosed with leukemia on June 12, 2019. Pey got a bone marrow transplant on December 5, 2019. Pey was in remission for seven beautiful months. Pey relapsed on July 21, 2020. Pey died on January 18, 2021. I cannot accurately convey the hell of that journey, the absolute torture of it all. My heart broke for nineteen months straight while Pey fought with bravery, perseverance, hope, despair, pain, and humor. He never lost the ability to laugh deeply, to love fiercely, and to want everyone around him profoundly happy.
He was more than my son: he was my soulmate, my twin- flame, my sounding board, my clone, my biggest fan, and my strongest love. I held him after he entered this world and I held him as he left it. I am devastated without him.
Please send love and light to others he left behind: his Dad, Seth Shaffer, his Dad, Shane Alkire, his brother, Grayson Shaffer, his dog, Toby, and his cat, Ginsburg; his grandparents, Jere and Martie Bunting, his Uncle, Joshua Bunting, and his Aunt, Erin Sheppard; his brother-but-cousin, Marty Eshleman and his great- grandfather Jere R. Bunting.
Thank you from every cell in my body to Pey’s team at Penn State Children’s Hospital, as well as every single nurse he ever had. Never forget the pranks, the smirks, the snark, the orange soda, the negotiating, the pissed off walks, the fake sleeping, and that one time he tried to escape the hospital. You are forever our family.
Peyton’s massive celebration of life will be held in the summer when we are all healed enough to truly party in his name, his sweet spirit, and his funny, beautiful happiness