12-year-old son died unexpectedly
A parent should never outlive their child.
It's like a fist in the gut and a permanent shroud over the heart. Tasheca Fason Dennis is not out of the fog yet. She doesn't feel she will ever see clarity and make sense of things. What has her on her knees and asking "Why?" is her 12-year-old son Micah's passing this past Labor Day.
"September 5," she whispers. "I'll never forget that day."
Micah was a popular Mt. Juliet Middle School student, friend, beloved son, brother to Mason, 7, Destiny, 13, Diamond, a junior at Mt. Juliet High, and favorite cousin to Raven Turner, 18, who lives with the family.
Tasheca moved her family from West Tennessee to Mt. Juliet three years ago to get a better job.
September 5 started out routine, except the kids were out of school for Labor Day. Micah and his brother Mason took advantage of the off day and headed next door, Charlie Daniels Park, to shoot some hoops.
"Micah loved, loved basketball," Tasheca said. "His dream was to be a NBA star. That's all he talked about. He was improving so much and had so much hope."
He was able to practice and play despite his battle with asthma. But his condition was under control. He took nightly medicine, and every two weeks he'd go to the doctor to get an allergy shot.
On Labor Day evening Micah and his siblings knew it was back to school the next day, so it was to bed early.
"I watched him take his medicine," his mom said. "He told he me he was going to bed."
He told his mom, "I love you."
That's the last time this grieving mother saw her 12- year-old son alive.
Something horrendous happened within 60 minutes of his "goodnight."
"I went into his room and he was on the floor," Tasheca remembers.
This wasn't unusual because Micah liked to sleep on the floor. But this mom knew her son and something didn't look right.
What ensued over the next moments in time was a nightmare from hell. Micah wasn't breathing. Tasheca tried to revive him, even used his EpiPen on him. The entire family was home and shared in the horrible ordeal that seemed like it was slow motion.
Even young Mason, who just hours before played hoops with Micah, witnessed the tragedy. They called 911 and paramedics worked hard on Micah in the ambulance before racing to Summit Medical Center.
That race ended at the hospital where a presumably-healthy seventh grader was pronounced dead.
"The final pronouncement was an asthma attack," Tasheca said softly.
However, what haunts this fierce momma is her belief her son ate a very popular snack, found on the shelves at all stores, prior to his unnatural death. The bag was beside him.
Because Tasheca said she's going to pursue legal council, the name of the snack can't be revealed.
"But I won't rest until they are off the shelves," she said. "There is a lot on the Internet about this snack and how people are rushed to the emergency room. How can that be? There are no disclaimers on the packaging."
Tasheka believes there's an ingredient in the snack that is harmful for those with asthma. This issue is the only thing that keeps her focused during the worst time in her life.
No stranger to adversity, just four days before Micah's death she was terminated from a good job. And her vehicle broke down and a not-so-honest mechanic bamboozled her out of about $3,500 to fix it... its still not fixed and she's out the money.
While these setbacks are enough to make even a grown man cry, they pale in comparison to losing a son with so much life still ahead of him. The entire family is grieving and little Mason, who attends Elzie Patton, is having a hard time generally.
"He adored his big brother," Tasheca said. "He can't wrap his head around it. He walks around the house and asks why did his brother have to die. It's hard still living here where Micah passed. The teachers say Mason can't focus... he's acting out a bit."
Mason is afraid to be alone. He can't even walk by Micah's bedroom. Tasheca had secured a new home for the family, but that fell through when she lost her job.
And Destiny was like Micah's twin. They were inseparable. The breadwinner for the family, Tasheca is not bringing in an income now. She's just trying to get her breath back and inhale her new normal. However, Diamond has a job after school at Walmart and Raven works, but has school loan debt. Tasheca catches a ride when she has to go anywhere. She hopes to find a car somewhere, somehow. And a job, she said. She was doing factory work, but has banking and customer service experience as well.
The community has rallied around Tasheca and her family.
"They loved my Micah so much," she said. "There was even a candlelight ceremony for my baby."
And, though a Christian, this grieving momma whispers she questions God. She thinks it's unfair and doesn't understand why she's still alive and her young son gone way too soon.
"I know I'm not supposed to question God," she said. "Micah was baptized exactly 90 days before he died. I want to tell God, why didn't you take me instead of him?"
Mom said her son excelled in basketball under the tutelage of the Rutland family. He played with their son Marice. The school tryouts took place just a few days after Micah died.
"He should have been there," Tasheca said.
Micah's funeral was in West Tennessee. It's a long drive.
"You should have seen the crowds for him," Tasheca said. "So many students, teachers and friends traveled all the way from Mt. Juliet. I never, ever, ever realized how much my son was loved."
It's really no solace though. It's a poignant note in a notebook that should not be written. It's unnatural.
And, yes, this mom gently placed a small basketball in her son's casket. Mason treasures its duplicate which he keeps close at all times.
Friend June Lagreen has set up a GoFundMe account for Tasheca and her family. She heard of Tasheca's story and said she "has a heart" when children are involved. The link is www.gofundme.com/donations-for-tasheca-fason.
Writer Laurie Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.