RIP Donte Isaiah Smith. September 20, 2004 – July 25, 2013
My cousin Heather’s little boy, Donte, passed away today – just a month and a bit shy of his ninth birthday.
He’s been ill the last few months, so it was kind of expected. The family lives in Barbados, but come up to Toronto every year to visit relatives, grandparents, cousins, etc. Heather seemed to know that this might be Donte’s last trip to Toronto. She hinted as much to me, but never expanded on her hunch. And I didn’t pry.
Donte wasn’t your average nine-year-old; after he was born, he developed an encephaly, which doctors attributed to a possible stroke in-utero some weeks before his birth. It wasn’t even detected at the time, because he looked “normal.” Complications arose a few days later. By then, it was too late to do much to help him. Donte had already suffered massive brain damage, and doctors advised Heather to take him home and love him for a few weeks, as he wasn’t expected to live beyond that, anyway.
But he surprised us all. He was severely disabled, yes, but that kid was always so bubbly. He couldn’t walk, speak or see, but he knew his surroundings. He knew who we were by the sounds of our voices, and his reaction (squeals of delight and peals of laughter) to a favourite visitor always left you feeling lighter.
In his last weeks, his health started to decline. I think it was his kidneys. He’d stopped eating, Heather said. She put him to bed last night, as per their usual routine. Sitting at his bedside, she told him quietly that if he wanted to go, it was okay. And then she went to sleep herself. Around 5am she awoke, and checked on Donte. He seemed still. In the dim light, she watched his chest, waiting for the rise and fall of his breathing, but there was nothing.
Donte was gone.
She sent a message this afternoon to let us (all of the cousins) know. I will visit her sometime soon. I must. She has two older boys, and they’ve taken the news pretty hard. Of course. Regardless of his physical limitations, Donte was their baby brother, and they adored him. It’s all just so sad.
No mother should have to bury her child. I’ve always understood how unnatural it seems, but now that I’m pregnant, it resonates more than ever.
Rest In Peace, little guy.