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Sorrells Funeral Home



Monday, August 19, 1974 - Saturday, July 1, 2017

PATTI “PEYTON” PENNINGTON passed away on July 1, 2017 at UAB Hospital in Birmingham after a long and courageous battle with an extended illness.  She was 42. 

Peyton was loved by all who spent time with her. With complete ease, she gave the gift of laughter to all in her presence.  Born in Dothan, Alabama on August 19, 1974, she graduated from Vestavia High School in 1992.  Soon thereafter, she met her future husband Mike Pennington, a Birmingham attorney, with whom she would spend the next 23 years.  Peyton was a much-loved stepmother to Mike’s children, Jennifer Michelle Pennington, Allie Rabon Pennington, and Aulton Ralls Pennington. She leaves behind many friends all over this country, but her dearest, closest friend was unquestionably her mother, Patti Palmer Spruell of Dothan, Alabama.  Peyton was equally devoted to Patti’s husband, Ken Spruell.    She also leaves behind many other loved ones, including her brothers Glenn and Sean Sanders of Dothan; her father Wallace Sanders and his wife Patsy, also of Dothan; half-siblings Jeremy Sanders and Heather Levengood of Pennsylvania; uncle, Larry Sanders and his wife Debbie of Louisiana; stepbrothers Jason and Derek Spruell and Brian and Danny Sconyers;  Aunts Betsy P. Collins of Mobile and Bonnie Palmer of Dothan; her mother-in-law Patsy Jones Pennington and stepmother-in-law Sandra Braxton Pennington;  and many brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews, and cousins.   She was preceded in passing by her grandparents Jesse and Betty R.  Palmer of Dothan and Alvin and Lillie Sanders of Rehobeth, as well as her beloved uncle, Jesse Glenn Palmer of Dothan.  Peyton’s ability to light up a room with laughter and fun just by the force of her own personality will be missed by all who knew her.     Her family will receive guests at Sorrells Funeral Home & Crematory in Slocomb, Alabama on Wednesday, July 5, 2017 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.  Funeral services will be held in the Sorrells Funeral Home Chapel , Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. with Reverends Wendell Holmes and Rick Ousley officiating.   Interment will be at her mother’s family farm at 11780 Fortner Street, Dothan, Alabama, with Rev. Tommy White presiding.  Peyton would be grateful for donations to be made to the Greater Birmingham Humane Society, the Jimmie Hale Mission in Birmingham, Grace Point Church in Pelham, Alabama, or the City of Slocomb Dog Kennel.  Pallbearers will be Ken Spruell, Sean Sanders, Ralls Pennington, Darrell Raulerson, Danny Elkins, Guy McCullough. Honorary pallbearers will be Glenn Sanders, Paul David West, Bill Lovrich, Joe Sullivan, Nick Lee and Charlie Conaway.            





Funeral Service

Date: Thursday, July 6, 2017



Add Your Own

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I love you Peyton ; everyone knows your unique personality, your soft, tender heart . Kind & crazy ways. You had my heart & respect the moment I saw your compassion for people & animals . I can't say anything other than what everyone already knows & expressed about you ... proof of your authenticity, pure heart & soul. Missing you , love you ♡
Linda Anderson davis

So sorry Mike.. go rest high on that montain Peyton love y'all Bobby Linda Matt mark chris
Miriam & Wallace Grace

Wallace, Mother and I are so sorry for your loss. Peyton was always special to me. I remember carrying her around like a baby doll when she was small. Our hearts break for all of you. Patti, I know how close you and Peyton were. Two peas in a pod. Your loss is too great to measure. Words seem so inadequate right now. We pray for God's comfort for you.

Love to you all.

Ralph Daughtry.Bill Bernays

We just learned of Peytons death and we are hurt and sorry that Mike, Patty, Betsy and Spruell have had to go through this loss. Peyton was a lovely person and so is Mike. tTis early loss is a great tragedy and I know Mike and his children will miss her greatly. We have had you in our hearts while you endured this illness and we had truly believed she will recover. Our sympathy to her entire family, especially to Mike and his children that will miss her daily charm, graciousness and beauty.Deepest Sympathy, Ralph Daughtry & Bill Bernays and Jenny Hirtz

Peyton, sure gonna miss her. Everyone in ga. Loved to see her come down. The first time we met was like we knew each other forever. When she would introduce e to someone she would say this is one of pats sisters.she always got me confused with mary. She did light up a room. R.i.P my angel.
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Bonnie H Kent

So sorry for your loss of Peyton. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.
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Rabon Pennington

I wish you all could know how lucky we were to have Peyton as our stepmom. I can't imagine who I would be today without her dedication to helping raise us over the last 23 years. She was such a fun stepmom, always making sure we enjoyed ourselves at their house, making sure we took all the leftovers home, making sure we got candy for every holiday imaginable, and making sure we knew she was there for us. She taught me to always make my bed when I stayed at other people's houses, including theirs. When I got a new car recently, the first thing she did was make sure I knew how to get out of my trunk should I ever be trapped inside-- she literally made me crawl into the trunk while she laughed & I searched for the escape hatch. Similarly, she encouraged me to call her whenever I felt unsafe walking to my car from a garage or parking lot. I took her up on that often, and she'd answer even at 2 in the morning, talking to me and distracting me as she made sure I got home safe. In some ways she was not maternal, but I have 23 years of proof that in many more ways, she was.

As I got older, I talked to Peyton about a lot of things I wasn't quite ready to tell dad-- she could listen to the details of a secret escapade I had with friends, details of breakups or new flings, details of college and parties, and she always understood the fine line between which details she felt dad needed to know and which details he'd rather not know. Not many people can say that about a stepmom.

Some of my favorite memories were out by the pool she & dad built. I remember one time while poolside we decided to test dad's one track mind by seeing how long it took for him to notice that we had cut out elaborate jewelry from an expensive magazine and taped it on as if it were real-- we couldn't stop laughing when he came out to the pool and complimented my paper earrings. Fun little games like this were commonplace with Peyton, especially when traveling. I loved flying with Peyton because she brought everything we could ever even possibly maybe need in her suitcase-sized purse. I recall one rather empty flight home where we threw gummy bears at each other from across the plane aisles-- a demonstration of the childlike splendor she maintained throughout adulthood.

My other favorite memories probably involve football season, which will be difficult for us come Fall. Many of you know, you don't call Peyton during an Alabama football game, and if you do, you either get a voicemail or a few choice words. The refs also got many of those choice words when they made unfavorable calls, at which point Peyton would also throw her own yellow flag at the TV. Before every game, she'd decorate the TV cabinet with her favorite Bama hats, shakers, and a stuffed Big Al that played the fight song when pressed. Every Bama touchdown-- and luckily, those were plentiful-- we would press the button & toss Big Al around while the fight song played & the extra point was kicked. It's gonna be a lot harder to throw Big Al to heaven than it was to throw him across the room to her.

There in that living room, I got to witness the most pure, intense, and enduring love between she & my Dad. The dynamics of their relationship were unique to them in many ways, but it worked. It worked really well for them. After all those years, she would still leave dad flirtatious notes on the kitchen chalkboard, and he would still catch himself staring at her from across the sofa (not couch-- she hated that word) saying, "I love you my pretty." I also got to witness her love for my dad extend to me, my siblings, and our mothers, because Peyton understood what everyone calls "co-parenting" today. She understood what was best for us. And so, she & dad sat with mom at our sporting events, at dinner together, at school ceremonies, and more. She sent my mom holiday cards and asked about her often. I've often said how lucky I was that my divorced parents got along way better than any married parents I knew, and Peyton was central to that blessing for us.

These are just a few of the endless memories Peyton gave me, and I could spend pages recalling more. What I want everyone to know is that she shaped me, she made me who I am, she gave me a part of my identity that I doubt I would have ever found or developed without her passionate fervor for life. The greatest gift she ever gave me was living her life exactly the way she wanted to, fully, whole-heartedly, and with so much laughter-- that gift now spawns the gift of peace and comfort knowing her years here on earth were exactly what she wanted them to be. From now on, I encourage all of us to follow suit and make life everything we want it to be, and to find laughter in every step.

We are so, so lucky to have walked this earth with Peyton. And I am eternally grateful for her.
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April, Jeremy and family

We are so heartbroken that Peyton has passed. Family gatherings just won't be the same without her. We are so very sorry for your loss of such a kind hearted, funny, beautiful woman. She was always so sweet to our girls, always made sure they got a cool gift for Christmas from her and Uncle Mike. She will be missed so much by everyone she met, and especially by us. Our deepest sympathies for you Uncle Mike, our family and Peyton's family.
April, Jeremy, Alexa, Kaitlyn and Taylor Pennington
Mary Brennan Conaway

I lost my very best friend. I was 8 years old when she moved next door to my childhood home. I left a note on her doorstep and asked if she would like to be friends. Little did I know that that one brief letter would have sparked not only a lifelong friendship, but so much more. She became a surrogate mother, a big sister, my confidante. Although 15 years apart, we became a huge part of eachother's lives almost immediately and forever it stayed that way. Words can't explain the love I have for Peyton, and words can't explain the pain I feel knowing she is gone. My life is forever changed. I will always be grateful for the pretty, long haired lady who moved in next door. See you on the other side of the bridge, Miss Peyton. "Watch out for that troll!" ❤
Jenni Pennington

Peyton meant so much to so many. We were virtually the same age, and we were pals. I could cut loose and laugh with her like no other and she was everyone's confidant. She took a lot of secrets with her. I don't think she ever met a stranger; they were all potential new friends. Throughout her illness, she made new friends in the hospital. Tried to learn by name all the nurses, therapists, housekeepers, etc.. Even in her worst days, she took a genuine interest in those surrounding her, and they, in turn, took a liking to her. The music therapists learned new songs just for her. Our favorite housekeeper, Miss V, made a point of coming by and praying with Peyton regularly. V called her "my feisty angel." That description fits her so well! She will be so missed, by so many.

Thank you all, from the bottom of our hearts, for your support and prayers these last few months, and these last few days. Please let them continue a little longer as we travel to lay our feisty angel to rest, and for Dad for the coming days, weeks, and months. He is lost without her.
Sherryl walker

My prayers and thoughts are with Peyton's family. So sad to say goodbye to such a young, beautiful lady! Sending hugs and love. Sherryl Walker
Sandra Pennington

To Mike,Patti and the rest of Peyton Pennington's family and friends. I am so sorry and sad for the loss of our beloved "Peyton". We all have been left with a big hole in our hearts. Peyton was loved by so many for her bubbly, mischievous, fun loving personality. Like her Aunt Betsy said, "Peyton was always giving small things that were relative to the other person's personality". I never got a Christmas gift that there wasn't a special little Christmas tree ornament, attached to the gift, especially for me! The cards she sent me, for whatever occasion, were always of cute little furry animals because she knew we both had a love for our fur babies. On another note, I will never again prepare my "Olive Stuffed Cheese Balls" that I won't feel Peyton's presence around me. The one and only Christmas that I didn't make them for her was when we had a bad storm that night and Shiloh (my big boy German Shepard) broke out of the fence that night and I had to go out looking for him the next morning and didn't get back to the house in time to prepare them before my guests arrived and believe me, she NEVER let me forget it (LOL), but that's who she was. I consider it a privilege and an honor to have known and loved Patti (PEYTON) Pennington. RIP, 'til we meet again!
Jerry and Peggy Coskrey

Wallace and family, you are in our thoughts and prayers. Praying for peace in your heart.
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Heather Sanders-Levengood and Jereme Levengood

I will miss u, but remember the few precious times we had. Sending out prayers to your Mama, our Daddy and family in this sad time. I'll see u again one day soon! Love u!
Carol & Larry Reeder

Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this time. Such a beautiful daughter just like you. We love you.
Carol and Larry Reeder

To know Peyton was to love her. Peyton had an affinity for coaxing laughter, but more importantly, Peyton made every person she met feel completely at ease. Whether you were the brand new girlfriend in the family or a complete stranger at a birthday party table, Peyton persistently cracked jokes until you couldn't imagine ever feeling like you didn't belong. I imagine there are few people in this world who don't regret wasting time worrying what others might think. The irony of her all too short period on this Earth is that she gave us all the gift we (maybe a little selfishly) wish we could return to her--the gift of time. Time to laugh, time to love, and time to make memories, because if you were around Peyton, there wasn't a minute wasted being pretentious, too serious, or just plain boring. I love your family and am so grateful for the short time I was able to know and love Peyton.
Susie Palmer Bell

Words fail me. Prayerful feelings are the most meaningful expression I have for this loss. Peyton was a bright light in the world. Her closest loved ones are surely suffering more than we can imagine, devastated by this loss. I send my love to Patti and the rest of Peyton's immediate family. I am not able to attend due to young children at home, but I am going to sit and pray during the time of visitation and the service. May you feel the grace of God throughout the coming days and especially tomorrow, Wednesday, July 5.
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Mary Carlisle

Patti: Just saw in the paper about your daughter. I am so sorry. My prayers will be with all of you.
Michael Pennington

In the early fall of 1994, I found myself rushing down a hallway at work. I went down that hallway 20 times a day. But this time was different. Because I passed a girl in that hallway. Not just any girl, but a girl who took my breath away. To this day, I’d bet there is a skid mark in that hallway. Because I hit the brakes on a dime and I turned around and I introduced myself to that girl. I had to. I knew I had to. I knew instantly we were meant to pass each other in that hallway.
She was such a gorgeous thing. A petite little beauty with long, beautiful brown hair, big brown eyes, and a lovely end-of-summer tan. She smiled as much with those Natalie Wood eyes as with her pretty little mouth. And it was mesmerizing. I said “Hi, I’m Mike Pennington.” With a fascinating twinkle in her eye she said “Hi, I’m Peyton.” And there it began.
Peyton worked for an onsite copy and mailroom service that my law firm used back then. From that day on, she would come to visit me in my office every day. She would deliver my mail, then sit in my guest chair and we would talk. It wasn’t long before I began to offer her a ride to her car after work, because she parked much further from the office than I did, and I was worried about her walking alone in the evenings in downtown Birmingham as the days grew shorter. You see, I had come to care for her almost immediately.
After a few days of that, Peyton and I started driving around for an hour or so after work just to have time together. When the management of my firm at the time began to have concerns about our growing relationship, she just up and quit her job to protect mine. Nothing was going to stop us from being together. And nothing did.
And then one day she put her hands on my cheeks, pulled my face to hers and kissed me. In the front seat of my 95 Mustang GT as I recall. And I knew that my life would never be the same.
We fell in love. Hard.
But there were some challenges. Foremost among them was my divorce. My twins Rabon and Ralls were 2 and a half. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing the opportunity to be constantly with them, as years before I had lost the opportunity to be constantly with my first child Jenni as she grew up. Second, Peyton hadn’t told me she was only 20. I was 33. She also hadn’t told me she was the niece of the in-house counsel of one of my best clients. I found those things out when I met her mother Patti.
Fortunately Patti and I quickly took a pretty strong liking to each other, and that would pay off big time when the aforesaid Aunt Betsy found out to her horror that the infamous Mike Pennington was seeing her niece. Because Patti let her sister know that she was perfectly OK with the fact that Peyton liked me, and was not about to tolerate any interference with our relationship. I remember explaining to Betsy that I would walk a thousand miles to see Peyton’s face by candlelight. And I meant it. In fact, it never stopped being true. Over time a nervous Aunt Betsy came to realize this was not a fling, and maybe something good would come of it after all.
And it did.
Peyton braved the rough seas surrounding the end of my marriage, and those rough seas eventually calmed. She earned the respect and fondness of the mother of my twins by not trying to be their mother herself, and not even trying to be their stepmother. She just tried to be their friend. Which in fact made her the perfect stepmother. When we had the kids, she played and horsed around with them, and tried to teach them to laugh and to love and to have fun, to take a joke and to enjoy being a jokester, to get along, and to do something good for someone else now and then. And through the collaboration that grew between us all as a result, and the nurturing of their Grandma Pat and her husband David, the love and encouragement of their Papa Buster and his wife Sandra, and the joy of the relationship Rabon and Ralls had with Pitti Pat and Spruell, what could have been a broken family became instead just their bigger family, and two much-loved children became two wonderful people.
Jenni was only a year younger than Peyton. You see, I had adopted Jenni at the time of my first marriage, when she was 5 and I was 19. So Peyton had a different relationship with her. More that of a big sister, or maybe a co-conspirator. Whenever Jenni came over (in later years usually with her companion in life Melissa), I knew there would be mischief of some sort, and that any hope of sleep would be lost to the cackles of raucous laughter bouncing off the walls until dawn. In the process, Peyton brought Jenni solidly back into my life.
All 3 of my children will always bear the imprint of Peyton. It is reflected in their sense of humor, their love of laughter, their unpretentiousness, and their kind and caring hearts. The same reflection can be seen in the spirit of Mary Brennan Conaway, our next door neighbor child who at age 8 asked Peyton to be her friend and got a fairy godmother for life in return.
The love affair I had with Peyton never ended. Peyton’s love was fierce and all-consuming, as was my love for her. At Niagara Falls in August of 1998, I presented her the ridiculously gaudy emerald ring she had shown me in a jewelry store a couple of years before, and I asked her to marry me. She said yes, but then made me wait 10 years before she would actually go to the altar with me. She said I had now been divorced twice, and she wasn’t going to marry me until she was sure I wasn’t going to divorce her. She never had a thing to worry about. I was hopelessly addicted to those dark smiling eyes, that laugh, and the all-out love we had for each other.
In 23 years, I don’t think we spent more than 10 nights apart. We hated being apart even for a few hours. We talked about it all the time—it made us physically uneasy to be apart. We only felt whole when we were together. And that was as true in year 23 as it was in year 1. My eyes were never happy unless they were resting on her.
So I took her on virtually all my business trips, just so we didn’t have to be apart, and I had to travel often. We would almost always spend at least one extra night wherever we went just for fun. Wherever we went, she reveled in befriending the hotel and restaurant staff. She truly wanted to make them our friends, and easily succeeded. She would take selfies with them, do their jobs for a minute if they’d let her, invite them out with us after work, and sometimes bring them little gifts. Whenever we would return to a hotel we’d been to before, the welcome for Peyton was effusive and as genuine as she was.
Meanwhile, the fun and laughter that she brought to dinners with clients and colleagues regularly turned them into friends, too. None closer than Joe and Barbara Sullivan, who met Peyton on a business trip in about 1995 and have been our lifelong friends from that moment on. All the fun we had together with them over the years, from Birmingham to Mobile to New Orleans to New York to the British Virgin Islands, grew entirely from a single business dinner where they met Peyton. You see, Peyton was as comfortable making a client laugh in a formal setting as she was entertaining all my relatives at the annual family reunion in rural Hopeulikeit, Georgia. And she acted exactly the same in both settings. She refused to be anyone other than her own playful, irreverent self. And you couldn’t help but love that.
So it was no surprise to me when in a New York hotel lobby she went sliding into a cheetah at breakneck speed, wrapped her arms around its neck and pressed her cheek against his. The cheetah’s handler had to be revived, but the cheetah didn’t seem to mind. Nor was it a surprise when we ran into Tom Jones at that same hotel and she told him she loved to dance naked all by herself in her backyard pool to “Love is Like Candy on a Shelf,” which happened to be true. Or when she walked up to Peyton Manning and spurred an hour long conversation with him by saying “I was Peyton before you were.” Whether we were on a business trip in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, or West Palm Beach, or just visiting family in Oxford, Alabama or on the outskirts of Dothan, Alabama, Peyton was going to be Peyton. And she was going to have a good time being Peyton. And most of all, she was going to try to get you have a good time too.
When Peyton finally did decide to go ahead and marry me in 2008, she wanted to elope to Vegas and get married on Halloween. Halloween was her favorite holiday because it was a holiday associated with fun and laughter. And fun and laughter were what she loved the most out of life. She craved laughter more than air. So we got married in Vegas at the Little Church of the West on Halloween 2008. We didn’t invite anyone and we told no one. We just had fun. Patti called me an ugly name when I called from Vegas to tell her that her daughter and I had just gotten married without letting her in on it. But I was just trying to give her daughter what she wanted. A thoroughly fun wedding, not a pretentious or stressful one.
Five years later we got married at the same place again just for kicks. The first time we did it in style. The bride wore a long black dress, because black was her favorite clothing color. When we renewed our vows in 2013 we were in full costume as Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein. We each did our own makeup. Both times Choctaw was Best Man.
Choctaw is her Maine Coon Cat, and boy was he ever loved. I learned that the hard way just before we got married on August 16, 2008, the night I had a heart attack. Thanks to Peyton calling 911 to save my life, paramedics had been in and out of the house trying to tend to me for half an hour or so, and had left the front door open. As I finally lay on the stretcher in an ambulance in my driveway, I heard her yelling down from the front porch: “Nobody is leaving until I find Choctaw!” Twenty minutes later we left for the hospital.
Peyton took Choctaw with us on all our trips, whether for business or pleasure. Aside from her mother, only 1 other being ever held as lofty a position in her heart as Choctaw. That was her prior Maine Coon, Cowboy. But her love for animals, especially abandoned or helpless animals, was boundless. Over the years she bottle fed and raised dozens of abandoned newborn kittens, giving them all C names like Crawfish, and Crabcake, and Crisco, and Casserole, and Caboose. She would make herself wake up every 2 hours to bottle feed each of them, and she would teach our male German Shepherds Cracker and Concho to bathe them. They all of course became permanent residents of our household, and they all contributed to its “pet hair tumbleweed” motif. About 7 of the adoptees still do.
Peyton had a soft spot in her heart not just for vulnerable animals, but for anyone who was hurt or abandoned or down. If someone on the street asked her for money and she had any cash, she gave it without asking questions. If she saw a person who appeared to be homeless she didn’t wait to be asked. And if she didn’t have what she thought was enough to give them, she’d rifle through your pockets until she did. And she regularly insisted that we contribute not only to homeless shelters but to local animal shelters, even though we were effectively running one of our own.
Peyton was a great decorator, but keeping a clean house was not her strong suit. At least not when it came to her own house. There is a sign in our laundry room that says “When I feel the urge to clean house, I lie down till it passes.” That fit Peyton to a tee. She couldn’t cook at all either. But what she could do was light up any room with smiles and laughter and fun just by being Peyton. Whether it was a roomful of lawyers or just the two of us in that room.
Peyton tried hard to make sure I completely forgot about work when I got home. From the day of that first kiss until our last day together, our love was filled with tight hugs and frequent kisses and lots of handholding and almost hourly “I love yous”. With daily love notes on the kitchen chalkboard, sweet smiles throughout the day, and liberal doses of silliness just because it was fun. Though she could clear out a space and throw a five foot three fit with the best of them, Peyton never wanted to let us go to bed mad at each other. The few times we did were because I was being stubborn and trying not to let her know how easily she melted my heart every time. And the anger never survived till morning.
Peyton had a way with language. She sort of made up her own as she went along. She did not believe in using the Lord’s name in vain, and was quick to remind me that I shouldn’t either whenever I slipped up in that way, but as far as she was concerned every other form of curse word was fair game as long as you were among friends. Her four letter vocabulary was impressive overall, but it was her creativity with one four letter word in particular that was unparalleled. That word was to her what a brush was to Salvador Dali. No spot in any sentence uttered by Peyton in a friendly setting was safe from that word or some variant of it. But the charm of it was that she used it almost entirely to coax smiles and laughter from her friends and loved ones, and almost always with an irresistible humor in those beautiful smiling eyes of hers.
No, Peyton was not perfect. None of us are. But she was perfect for me. And she was a good, sweet, big hearted soul. She never lost the playfulness of childhood. She believed in God, she believed in Jesus, and she prayed often, always in her own private conversations with the Lord, and usually with her hands clasped and fingers interlocked. And she loved me fiercely, with all her heart and soul, willing to do anything to protect me and to protect our marriage.
Peyton also loved her father Wallace and his wife Patsy and all the extended family their marriage gave her. She cared deeply her brothers Glenn and Sean. But she would absolutely go to the ends of the earth for her mother Patti, who also happened to be her true best friend. Never have I known a mother and daughter who had a deeper love, a truer friendship, or a closer bond. They were conjoined at the soul.
Of course, Peyton would go to the ends of the earth and back for her mother’s husband Spruell. I believe Peyton and Spruell unofficially adopted each other almost from the first day they met. They chose to belong to each other. And they did. It was mutual unconditional devotion, pure and simple. And without a doubt, my own relationship with Patti and Spruell is the greatest gift that Peyton ever gave me. Peyton and I had so much fun with Patti and Spruell throughout our time together. They are wonderful people. They mean the world to me. We will belong to each other forever thanks to Peyton.
For the longest time, Peyton did not know that her Uncle Jesse had died during her long illness. We felt she was too fragile at that point and we needed her to be as strong as we could keep her. Patti found herself in the terrible position of having to miss her brother’s funeral in order to be with her terribly ill daughter. But it is a testament to Peyton, to Jesse, to his wife Bonnie, to the Reeves and the Palmers, to this community and to the entire extended family that Jesse Glenn’s funeral became in part a prayer service for Peyton. How moving it was to hear that so many in attendance at a funeral were praying so urgently for someone who wasn’t even there. I believe, as others here do, that Jesse left us early to advocate for Peyton, and hearing what went down at his funeral was incredibly moving to Patti and to me. When we finally told Peyton, at a time when she was all too briefly stronger, it brought tears to her eyes too. She was also humbled by word of the fervent prayers of so many others throughout her illness.
Peyton brought far too many smiles, laughs, and hugs into this world to suffer as she did these last many weeks. But she endured what she had to endure with incredible grace, and she tried hard to stay with us despite the misery. In the depths of her agony, knowing she might die, she reached up, grabbed me by the face again, looked deeply into my eyes, kissed me, and said “I love you so much.” Then she hugged me as hard as she could. She said the same words to her mother in the midst of another incredibly powerful hug. I know that hug. I had 23 years of those hugs.
Losing Peyton makes me feel as though my own soul has been ripped from my chest. But I will always feel that hug—both arms around my neck, pulling me tight and holding me hard, and leaving no doubt she loved me with everything her little body had in her. That hug will always envelop me, just as she intended.
Peyton was always convinced from the day I met her that she would die young. I don’t know why. Her ringtone was “I’m not here for a long time, I’m here for a good time.” And that turned out to be so terribly true. I begged God to let us have Peyton a while longer. I asked him to take me instead. But He chose in His greater wisdom to take her to Heaven now.
Peyton made me promise that I would be buried next to her. That was an easy promise to make. For her sake and mine, I charge everyone here with making sure that promise is kept.
When she knew she might be dying soon (because she said God had told her she would be dying soon), Peyton asked me what I thought it was like to die. I told her I did not know, but I had read that those who had almost been there and come back say it is joyful and peaceful and beautiful. Then she asked me if I thought she would go to Heaven. I told her I knew she would. She had always prayed, she had always believed, and she had been too kind to too many people and too many animals not to go to Heaven. Then I told her that I was not ready for her to go, but if she got there before me, I hoped I would have no trouble finding her if I was able to get there one day too. But just in case, I told her to please look for me in the hallway. Because I plan to be roaming every single hallway in Heaven until I find her again. For me, Heaven just can’t be Heaven unless I do.
God, please take care of my Pretty Peyton. Let her run and jump and play in Heaven as she wanted to do again here on Earth, and let her continue to laugh and create laughter everywhere she goes. And please guide me back to her when it is time. I still love and need her so.
Mike Pennington, Forever Peyton’s Husband.

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