Her son had no shortage of quirks, but the oddities were exactly what made him so special, said Jermika Collins.
Like how he hated hot dogs and hamburgers, wouldn’t go anywhere near ketchup, and at 13-years-old, insisted on tucking in his shirts, even when he wasn’t asked to.
A seventh grade student at Sego Middle School, De’Monta Collins loved being on time and speaking with proper grammar. He had an astonishing memory, and recently recited Martin Luther King Jr.’s entire I Have a Dream speech at a church service after reading it only a handful of times.
Inexplicably, De’Monta also had a phobia of dogs. With no bad experience to speak of, Collins said animals of all kinds frightened her son, and he would even shriek at the sight of bugs on the ground.
On April 10, De’Monta was struck and killed by a car in front of a friend’s house on Milledgeville Road while running from a dog neighbors say was trying to play with a group of kids.
The driver has not been charged and the dog owner was issued a citation, according to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
The suddenness of his death has been difficult for Collins, 32, to grasp.
After being diagnosed with lupus at age 12, doctors told Collins she would never have children. So as soon as she became pregnant with De’Monta in 2000, she began calling him her miracle child.
“There was just no one else like him in the world, I can’t explain it,” Collins said. “De’Monta was just De’Monta.”
Collins’ kidneys began failing in 2004 and soon she was on dialysis. With just the two of them at home, De’Monta grew up reminding his mother to take her medicine and cooked for her when she wasn’t feeling well.
When Collins had her feet amputated in 2007 and later had open heart surgery in 2010, De’Monta took on a stronger role at home.
“That’s why I’m trying not to cry, because Monta would always tell me to smile no matter what,” she said.
But while De’Monta was beyond his years in some aspects, he was behind in others, Collins said. His awkwardness at school made him an easy target for bullies, and he transferred to Sego after coming home from Glenn Hills Middle School last year with a black eye.
“We understood him, but a lot of people didn’t understand him,” Collins said.
At De’Monta’s funeral Saturday, Mount Calvary Baptist Church was packed with people who did love and understand him.
His friends from the Children and Youth Ministry spoke about De’Monta’s love for Jesus, the way he’d pray for those in need and believed it would work, and how he’d always ask for the longest roles in church plays.
Tyrone Butler, director of Augusta Mini Theater, remembered the way De’Monta would approach anybody new and ask their name, and how he begged Butler for weeks to teach him the Soul Brother Handshake.
Finally, addressing the congregation of more than 300, the Rev. Clyde Hill Sr. acknowledged the question on everyone’s mind.
“We don’t know when life is going to end, we just know it’s going to end,” Hill said. “We are born here not to stay here, for this world is not our home. ... De’Monta was born into this world a miracle, but born only to stay a little while.”