My Story: The day my son died at daycare

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Simone and Seth Mason. (Photo: Supplied)
Simone and Seth Mason. (Photo: Supplied)

Simone Mason from Johannesburg was an adoring first-time mom who’d just ventured back into the working world after caring for 13-month-old Seth at home. Little Seth was at daycare when the unthinkable happened

Seth gave his ‘dada’ the biggest smile when he woke him up for the day.

Ian dressed him in the clothes I selected. A white body vest, a polo neck shirt with a cool skull-and-bones [design] on it, corduroy pants, socks, leather boots and his new olive-green jersey. We said goodbye to his father and continued to get ready.

While I applied some make-up, our son was in a jolly mood and played with my purple, silver and gold pashmina. I put on his jacket and we quickly selected a CD to listen to in the car. It was an 8km drive to daycare. The CD was a compilation of South African rock songs by one of our country’s legendary DJs.

I sang along to Bubblegum on my Boots by the Springbok Nude Girls and danced in my chair. Our boy laughed from his belly at me and in no time was also bopping and bouncing along in his car seat. His eyes were sparkling, his face filled with such delight and his smile so broad that I quickly snapped a photo of him at the traffic light. The photo was taken at 6.48am.

We arrived at his daycare, I carried Seth in and kissed his chubby soft cheeks about 10 times. I handed him over to the daymother and greeted her. I wanted to lean over and plant one more smooch on his face but didn’t. She may think I was mad with all the affection I oozed for our son. “Bye-bye, see you later!” I said, pausing to look at them before waving goodbye.

I then went to a training session at work that began at 9am that day. We stopped for a lunch break and all trekked back to our own office blocks. I shared my lunch with a colleague. Three of us went to the smoking room before we were due to return for the afternoon’s training session. I had just lit a smoke when my cell phone rang.

The time was 1.03pm. I didn’t recognise the number but answered the call. It was the daymother.

“Simone. It’s Sethie,” she said. “You must come to the hospital.”

Seth Mason

I was immediately on high alert.

“Okay. I will come now. Where are you? At the Paediatric Ward?” I asked.

“No. Casualties.”

My heart began to throb. “Okay,” I replied. “But is he okay?”

She replied in a hysterical voice. “I don’t know. They won’t let me see him. They are working on him.”

I was shouting by now and asked, “But what happened?”

“He was playing and got something stuck around his neck,” she replied.

“I ended the call and my legs felt like jelly. I thought I was going to collapse. My hands were shaking uncontrollably.”

Our son, Seth Cameron Mason, passed away eight days before turning 14 months old. His head had gotten caught in a tear in a tablecloth draped over a pool table. He was hung to death in his daymother’s care.

28 June 2011 was the last time we ever saw him, took care of him, gave him affection. On that day I was forced to forfeit my role as being his mother. I had to say goodbye.

Seth was our first child. We had no idea how much we’d love this little person and how he’d turn our world upside-down! I stayed at home with him until he was 11 months old and then found employment in an industry I’d never ever worked in – an amazing opportunity at that. I hadn’t even been employed for three months when he passed on.

A court case of 32-and-a-half months ensued. We wouldn’t allow our son’s life to go unnoticed, despite the many external pressures. After a long and expensive court battle, the daymother was charged with culpable homicide and sentenced to eight years in prison, wholly suspended for five years.

People often compliment me, saying I’m so strong to have survived this loss. However, this always angers me as I didn’t endure a horrendous death with nobody there to help me. Our son did. Our magnificent masterpiece sent from above. Our creation wasted. And of course one blames oneself for one’s offspring’s death a gazillion times over during the grief cycles, which are relentless and never cease.

My husband and I have just had our 10-year wedding anniversary. Quite the feat, considering the effects this type of trauma can have on a marriage.

Simone and Seth Mason

We fell pregnant six months after Seth’s death. She was a gift from above.

Our gorgeous, smart, lively, tenacious and cheeky daughter is in Grade 1 and turns seven in September. She never got to meet her big brother. However, she speaks of him almost daily without us ever initiating any sort of connection. Her name is a tribute to her older brother and will connect them for all eternity.

This article has been submitted to YOU and was minimally edited.

Simone’s book, The Dew on my Toes, is available on Amazon in both paperback and e-book format.

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