Bipolar Disorder, Creative Writing, Depression, Life, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Mood Disorder, Poetry

STRENGTH AND SWEETNESS

She’s strength and sweetness.

She’s a warrior,
Her bones are inked in resilience.

She’s a demigod,
Her small existence is astounding.

She’s a paradox,
Her weakness is her strength.

She’s majesty,
Her soul is royalty.

She doesn’t soar the skies,
Yet her wings are by no means,
Less than the eagle’s…

She plods, she ponders,
Some days,
She simply persists.

In silence she battles,
And in despair she remembers, love.

She gathers all that is left of yesterday,
Her glitchy mind, her patchwork heart,
Her sharp edges, her missing parts,
Everything.

She soothes her frayed heart,
Hoodwinks her demons,
Clothes her agony in grace,
Hones her brave spirit,
Feigns fresh hope,
And walks quietly into a new day.

Her emptiness still lingers,
Her pains still ache,
Her veins are weary,
Her smile is riddled with scars,
Yet she’s lit like a fire tall enough to lick the gates of heaven!

What a strong woman!
A woman made of staggering rebound!
A true reflection of a God!
The ultimate God soaked metaphor!

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Life, Mental Health, Mood Disorder

JOURNAL 20/2

Because paper is more patient than people.

Lately I’m humbled. Humbled by the many windows of grace; by my God who not only shows up but shows off too. By the emotional explosions that thrust me into the arms of that loving God.

I’m thankful for the tasteful and timeless music and my dancing feet.

I’m impressed by that empty bottle of antidepressants on the bedside that hasn’t left me feening for one more pill for the life of me. Six whole months later. And my stout-heartedness and criminal level of resilience through it all.

I’m stunned that I’m slowly becoming a vibrational match to my dreams. And that the unknown and the unseen seem to be cheering on.

I’m intrigued by this life that’s peopled with inspiration. By this one ardently sweet, indomitably good-natured person who thinks the same about me.

I’m awed by my sister who looks spookily like me but isn’t my twin. And especially by her stellar personality.

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Life, Mental Health

SAVING GRACE

Dear Depression,

My old friend, the black dog, the slayer of beautiful souls, the barbed arrow right through my heart, the chaotic evil.

The demon singing horrifying lullabies to my weary veins, the insecurity killing my glorious dreams, fraying a piece of my heart and numbing a fragment of my soul… it’s been a long time coming.

I would like you to know that you have been crossing my mind a little more than usual these past days and I won’t sweep it under the rug. I made it clear on my last post that exulansis does not live here – my pen will keep bearing me witness.

You’re a quintessential part of me; I have religiously ridden with you even in the face of death without flinching but you still haven’t done me right. When we met at age 14, I was quite innocent then, but not anymore. Thank God.

Many people do not understand when I say that pain is beautiful, because they believe I’m romanticizing pain. That I’m glorifying the process of surviving pain when in reality it’s the lesson in the survival that I glorify. Pain is beautiful, it gives me insight and empathy and compassion and soulfulness. And those are not your everyday qualities. Thank you for teaching me that my life is not sunshine and rainbows everyday and that’s okay.

Depression is the cubicle I’ve sat at, the fishbowl existence I’ve lived in, the cold table I’ve dined at. But they say you must learn to get up from the table when love is no longer being served. So today and all subsequent days, I choose to get up from the table. I choose love. All forms of love including self love. I mean didn’t they promise that if I love myself authentically, my energy and aura will reject anyone that doesn’t know my worth? Well you, my friend, do not know my worth. I can say that with a straight face and without an ounce of doubt in my soul. There’s no ghost of a chance here.

I choose love. There’s not a hope in hell that I will go wrong with love. Because love is a metaphor for forgiveness, a metaphor for strength and sweetness, a metaphor for redemption, for salvation, for healing, for wisdom, for might, for beauty, for royalty, for triumph, for goodness, for authenticity, for illumination, for jubilance.

Love is the voice of an angel from the shores of agony, from the tunnels of darkness, the sound of an angel serenading me to life, the heaves coming from my body.

Love is my father speaking words of affirmation, calling me graceful, professional, titular names everyday to my sometimes jaded soul from the other side of the phone. Love is my mother passionately calling me “the star” when she has five other wonderful children that she bore.

Love is that doctor whispering me out of fear and putting my soul back in my body and ultimately both back in that recliner where he sometimes reads that medical history that reeks of something like the voodoo incantations of a stark raving mad Haitian witch doctor.

Love is my friends answering every frantic call and text, keeping up with my monotonous rants and not having a single selfish bone in their bodies.

Love is that little girl at service last Sunday that clutched my hand a little tighter when my teardrop landed on her shoe during that spiritual sermon.

Love is also that very very little boy from the opposite gate that by waves and smiles back each time we lock eyes. My goodness, whose beautiful son could this be!

Love is the deep and seamless conversations from our childhood.

Love is a real bond in a flawed world.

Love is me learning a bit more about love and a little less about myself. Love is my favourite colour…love is your favourite colour too.

Love is my nurturing mother, love is my protective father, love is my charismatic sister, love is my unborn child lingering in my lover’s eyes.

Love is the whispering wind, love is the sun kissing the earth, love is the leaves breathing, love is the sea washing out, love is the raindrops pelting the roof as I sleep sound.

Love is the tasteful and timeless music and my dancing feet.

Love is my patchwork heart and my glitchy mind adorned, love is my sharp edges and missing parts validated. Love an ocean of confidence.

Love is Wabi-Sabi. The understanding that a box full of darkness is still a gift, and I can use that well for the highest good.

Love is the emotional explosions that thrust me into the arms of a loving God.

Love is sharpening the blades of my pen to destigmatize the conversation around this sinister thing that is you, depression.

Love is catching a dream filled with affection and awe inspiring things and holding it in my heart until I get to see my loved ones in heaven.

Love is becoming a vibrational match to each and every one of my dreams.

Love is butterflies, the whimsical beauties darting and swooping as they frolic between the greenery while I look on dreamily, touching me with their pale gossamer wings and leaving their magic on my skin as they restore my faith.

Love is the smell of fresh roses.

Love is the bountiful sky soaking my soul in the joy of illumination.

Love is the prickly bougainvillea not requiring a nod to harbour the blooming sight that wishes to protect its flower pod.

Love is the yellow brick road to happiness.

Love is the future.

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Mental Health, Mood Disorder

GRATITUDE GALORE

Happy New Year everyone! It’s a chilly evening here in my neck of the woods!

My birthday was three weeks ago and I just got discharged from hospital one week ago so I’m a year wiser and stronger.

I’m nestled against the pillows as I type this, mellow and comfortable in the middle of my bipolar spectrum, with a clear state of mind, a calm soul and a revamped spirit. Last night I slept like a log and woke up to find this knackered dog curled up beside me at noon. Life is good, safe to say.

Looking back, I realise I grew up in this type of fishbowl existence where having my kind of chronic illness was the largest elephant in the room of health discussion. I heard people talk, I heard people stigmatise. So I figured that if people were going to say it about me anyway, I would say it first, because if I said it first, I would say it better. That is why I started this blog. Let it be known that exulansis does not live here at all.

Interestingly, when the world closes in with darkness and sin, I’m grateful for the myriads of blessings. Despite the depression, I’m blessed beyond imagination. Despite the soul rot, I’m blessed beyond imagination. Despite the speed bumps along my journey, I’m blessed beyond imagination.

Therefore today, in retrospect, I’m particularly grateful for:

God. The pillar of my astounding support system. For holding me while teetering between stoical and fervid. For carrying me during all reflection, transition and rebirth.

Myself. The self is divine. I feel like I had been a young girl of steel bright intelligence, but zero common sense. In other words. I had downplayed and underestimated my humanity and my femininity and their secret theatres of power and influence. I now look to act as a redeemed, empowered young woman and a daughter of philosophy and ethic. A legible wisdom of a grown woman, fearlessly navigating the turbulent waters of bipolarity. A grown woman of beautiful maps seldom left unread. A woman who is discontent with being the gold fish in a fishbowl when she has the capacity of a shark in the ocean. A woman who does not crinkle. A woman who knows her way around the minefield of self-actualization. A work in progress.

Music. Soulful music. For rap lyrics with wonderful emotional potency that resonate with me on a personal level. For the tasteful and timeless genre that is Ohangla. For its beautiful beats and for my dancing feet.

The sun and the wind. Even if I keep spending an unholy amount of time trying to make my hair tame only to step out and have the wind leaving me looking like a witch that just flew on her broom.

My doctor. For knowing how to help me stay on my cool. How to get me to stand ten toes down. How to whisper me out of fear and self-pity and put my soul back in my body, and ultimately my soul and my body all in that same recliner where sometimes he recounts a medical history that reeks of something like the voodoo incantations of a stark raving mad Haitian witch doctor.

Pens, paper pads and paperbacks. The readership, the blogosphere, the wordsmiths, the writers and the authors. Geniuses whose piercing words penetrate your heart and get plastered all over your soul. Clearly the revolution will not be televised but thank God for Ijeoma Umebinyuo!

My friend M. The queen of hugs and holding hands. An actual prodigy, a great listener, a top example and a quality friend.

My friend N. For answering every frantic call and text. For not having a single selfish bone in her body. For her superpower of keeping up with my monotonous rants.

My friend C. A real bond in a flawed world!

My friend H. The sunshine in my last memories of O’ Level.

My cousin BT. For his top tier personality.

My nephew Y. His smile also doubles as my medicine box.

My siblings B,B,B,B and B. Annoying, agitating, aggravating, nosey, caring, funny, determinated, intelligent and sweet. Whole bunch of goodness with a twist of wow and plenty of fun.

With gratitude I bow.

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Life, Mental Health, Poetry

OENOMEL

She’s oenomel,
She’s strength and sweetness,
She’s wine and honey,
She’s blizzard and furnace,
She’s fire and water.

She exemplifies the sound of space,
The hope of time,
The power of pain,
The greatness of nothingness,
The change of the unstoppable,
The uncertainty of impossibility,
The essence of the downtrodden,
The beauty of the strange,
The beginning of the end.

She’s oenomel.

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Life, Mental Health

THE WISH LIST

I wish I did not act often like God were a figurine on the mantle or like He fits in my back pocket but rather like He is creator of the universe, and He loves me…

I wish I could shield myself from my own agonies and insecurities. From phones that do not ring, from snubbed emails, from the 6am alarm clock, from saying no but still feeling the responsibility to explain myself, from the malaise of bad company, from fair weather friends; the kinds that fly the coop as quickly as they can, at the first hint of trouble, from the frayed ends of the welcome mat…

I wish I could shield myself from depression, from Bipolar II Disorder, from mood disorders, from relapses…

I wish I could shield myself from false hope, from wet blankets, from naysayers, from rabble-rousers, from toxic people, from unnecessary tirades, from the losing team, from people with an agenda to harm, and those wild flowers meant solely to disarm…

I wish I could shield myself from romantic relationships that lead everywhere but the altar. I wish I could shield myself from relationships marred by arguments that feel like the brink of a break up. I wish I could shield myself from relationships characterised by constant gaslighting and guilt tripping. I wish I could shield myself from relationships that make me second-guess my decisions. I wish I could shield myself from relationships that seem like love is a misnomer or a fictional concept. I wish everyone could mow the lands where people have lost their vows…

I wish I could feel more at home especially in the love of the most precarious sight…

I wish perserverence were solely meant to mould life into love of fine, gold or cold firing…

I wish I could make society destigmatise the conversation around mental health within the snap of my finger…

I wish I could make us all root for people affected by the scourge of mental illness…

I wish I could wipe mental illness off the face of the earth…

I wish I could rap like the enigmatic 2Pac. Or sing pitch perfect like the regal Whitney Houston. Just so I could give a concert for free and heal a soul or two…

I wish I could master Messianic oration like Obama just so I could bless the human race with gracefulness and mind blowing speeches that move you to tears and orchestrate you to leave your comfort zone or be your brother’s keeper…

I wish I could write like Chinua Achebe, the mercurial creature with his own unique quirk, aspiration and preference that still drives me to aspire to create my own stories. I wish I could shield myself from bland and boring reads. I wish I could only encounter riveting reads. And wordsmiths. The more arcane, the better…

I wish I could be half as compassionate as Mother Teresa…

I wish I could be a flaming charisma like my big sister…

I wish I could effortlessly be the prime purveyor of grit and the patron saint of resilience…

I wish I could be the kind of African who does not see politicians without the hedonistic desire to bury them in stones, the kind of African who watches the local news bulletin without being sick to their stomach, the kind who takes pride in their passport because of the country in it…

I wish I could fly an airplane just so I would satisfy my wanderlust by visiting spots around the world on a whim, validating my travel dreams, one bucket list city after the other…

I wish I could read minds just so I would get into private investigations and solve the myriads of crimes that wreck(ed) the world…

I wish I could experience osmosis just so I would go to libraries and transform my brain into the richest data bank…

I wish I could buy a bottle of confidence, just so I would take a case and put it in the pantry! I wish confidence were wine, because wine comes in bottles…

I wish I could erase all of my struggles with sadness, lethargy and the minefield of self-actualization. I wish I could remedy every regret and every bad decision. I wish I could take more chances, different chances, try harder. I wish I could sift through my life, alter details and discard parts of my history on to the cutting room floor until ultimately editing all of the pieces together to create my own picture-perfect story. I wish I could act it out all again before the curtains fall…

I wish I could revive seamless conversations from my childhood…

I wish the bountiful sky could let me bring some of its stars down and let me soak my soul in the joy of their illumination…

I wish I could be as prickly as the bougainvillea so I would not require a nod to harbour the blooming sight that wishes to protect the flower pod…

I wish I could catch a dream filled with love and awe-inspiring things and hold it locked in my heart until I get to see my loved ones in heaven…

I wish I could become a vibrational match to each and every one of my dreams and aspirations…

I wish the whimsical beauties that are the butterflies darting and swooping as they frolic between the greenery while I look on dreamily, touch me by their pale gossamer wings and leave their magic on my skin as they restore my faith…

I wish we could acknowledge that we struggle with our faith because we see so many bring shame to it…

I wish Father Time could slow down so I can make many more monumental memories with my brilliant nephew Y, and keep reminding him someday when I am gone, that I love him mightily.

I wish we could all agree unanimously, that after Hip-Hop & Rap, Ohangla is the second most timeless and tasteful music genre…

I wish we could all understand that a patriarchal society cannot become egalitarian without feminism…

I wish Capital Steez did not take his own life on the cusp of stardom…

I wish, consequently, that everyone would understand that people who commit suicide do not want to end their lives but the pain…

I wish, like Kid Cudi, more rappers were never afraid to bare their soul on wax, and give their lyrics a greater emotional potency that touches so many of us living with depression and battling suicidal ideations, in the most unheard of ways…

I wish I could understand why most of my heroes are either dysfunctional or dead…

I wish my loved ones never forget how grateful I am for them being patient with me while I’m teetering between stoical and fervid…

I wish the brain fog understood that I am a wounded healer and I have the power to turn wounds into weapons and trauma into triumph…

I wish everyone knew they are imbued with heavenly powers and they can use them well for the highest good…

I wish these words could fly off this blog and into print and someone somewhere picks my soul up off of those pages…

But most importantly, I wish I could be me. Just me; my best me. Regardless of whether I am slouched in front of my computer or hanging out with my best friend. Because if everyone were extraordinary, who would be extraordinary?

But I am but human. A human with a bleeding pen in my hands. A leakage of me lost in a brown study.

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Death, Life

Heaven Could Not Wait

Friday 4th September 2015, 08:30 pm. She shuddered and expired. Heaven could not wait.

My eyelids turned lead heavy, my heart hollow and my blood felt like acid. Grandmother was gone.

She had certainly been at death’s door for some months but I was not ready for that moment. Nobody is ever ready for mortality.

My Dana was larger than life. She She was beyond love. She was ahead of her time yet still on time. She had a demure demeanour that lit up a room. She was always wreathed in smiles. She had the most beautiful wrinkles when she smiled, as if her face was the map of her life; her whole face radiated beams of light at just one grin! She was beauty and everything that pertains to it.

Laced with self-consciousness, intuition, veracity, willpower, tenacity, grit and love. A senior citizen and your typical African (great)grand(mother), and as such, had some of the obligatory traits — spontaneous deafness, an unerring ability to stand right in the way and a bat-like sonar system that allows her to shout your name at the top of her lungs when you left one dish undone but stand ten toes down when she herself did that.

She typified love and affection. Authentic love and affection. A birth giver to stars. A magic maker. She had children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who would keep her on her toes; a wild ride to places she’d only see on telly. But I saw something striking in her liquid eyes, something that guided me from the moment I met her — her unflappable philosophy that whatever came her way she’d manage. And because she’d manage, we would, too.

Her relationship with God was a very skyward and personal one. She regarded Him as a friend. My own journey has been perhaps convoluted, my image of Divinity has somewhat shifted from that childhood vision (I believe due to my struggle with mood disorder), but the simplicity of those prayers remain! And so does something she told me when I asked her where God lived. She smiled at me very broadly and replied with a laid-back tone but somewhat cogent force, “In your heart.”

In her demise, I learnt that when the sled of death launches on you, when you watch the casket close on your loved one, it somersaults your mind forever. It brashly disrupts your mental, emotional and physical equilibrium. It brazenly reminds you of the frailty and fickleness of existence. Realisation dawns on you how terrible it is to love something that death can touch. I still hear the sound of her laughter under the starry sky in the middle of June, I still see her snow white teeth and her beautiful wrinkly cheeks traced with tiny spider veins, I still find bits and pieces of her in my musings and I still hold random conversations with her in my head 4 years after her passing, religiously. I still reminisce on everything.

I have learnt that there is no sanctuary for death; no respite, no silk cocoon you can wrap yourself to avoid it. Death is life and life is death and therein lies the metamorphoses, for both change and death are inevitable. Death can come fragrant as a dozen roses tied in silk ribbon, or it can slither in on the belly of a snake waiting for the right moment to strike or it can wrap itself around, throttling your breath from you. Death is the cold cup of coffee you never finish as you write your last words.

I think what puts us on edge regarding death no matter how familiar we think we have become, is its finality, surreal because there is no grand finale, no crescendo that can lead up to the moment.

Here’s also to my other Dana, my maternal forebear, woman of statuesque beauty, exquisite strength, precision, courage and love. She was as alpha as they come. Strict, advocative and now peaceful and free as a dove. She gained her heavenly wings earlier on that February.

Death should die too.

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Life, Mental Health

DARLING

Listen baby girl, you are beyond stunning. Do you hear me?

You have always been the girl that lets life happen to her. The girl that rides the rollercoaster of Bipolar Disorder without a seatbelt on. The girl that fights back the sting in her eyes when least expected to pull herself together. The girl that is almost painstakingly adept at keeping her cool in the wake of the turbulence that is circular insanity.

Today, in retrospect, looking back on some of your blog posts and I am absolutely gobsmacked at some of your posts. Equally inspired and revamped because you found people on the same wavelength as you. One thing is still vivid though: the skeleton that spooks you every time you open the closet. The black dog. The brain fog. The pain in the brain. OG depression. The slayer of beautiful souls. The throttling monster. The barbed arrow right through the heart.

You have hugged your knees, cried for hours until the tears dried and the throat hurt. Until you got a stuffy nose. You have sat on the floor of your room, sulking, yet in daze at the stormy situation that compounded you.

It’s a pity that even as you write this, you keep glancing over your shoulder because you know the black dog might be back sooner than later, but you tread on because you feel compelled to get this out.

But I’m glad that you are learning to dance in the torrential downpour. Like a phoenix, you are starting to learn how to emerge from the ashes to start a new life. I have seen you plummet to the state of despair and depress. I’m happy that you still have the key even when the black dog steals your self esteem, debilitates you (often to the point that you have no oomph and no motivation) and wraps it in chains.

You still believe in grit, resilience, tenacity and strength and resolve of character. You are fully aware of the inherent beauty in the promise of the life ahead of you. You choose to be a prisoner of hope. You understand that depression did not break you, it broke you open. You know that you are not here inspite of the challenges, you are here because of the challenges. You know that “we must all meet our moment of truth in this thing called life. Nobody is invincible; no plan is foolproof.” You are unstoppable, not because you have failures or insecurities or doubts but because you soldier on despite them. You still know, in the grand scheme of things, you are blessed despite the speed bumps along your journey. A journey that sometimes seems to be guided by a broken compass. A road to redemption that sometimes seems to have no GPS.

You understand that depression teaches you empathy and suicidal ideations teach you to appreciate each moment you almost didn’t have. You are slaying a demon that can’t be seen —feels like you have been through a fight but you have no punches, kicks or head butts to show for it yet you feel painful aches.

You have felt the paroxysm of pain. You have learnt that it doesn’t get better; you only get stronger. You know that you are in it for the long haul; maybe until you find your yellow brick road to healing. You must keep feigning strength until it’s inked in your bones.

You would rather be a burning passion than a perfectly put together coward.

Your glitchy mind and patchwork heart are worthy. And so are your sharp edges and missing parts.

Chase your calling, sis.

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Mental Health

DEPRESSION, AMBIVALENCE, A YEAR STRONGER

I know many people perceive depression as an intolerable, persistent sadness and deep gloom. My most recent experience has vividly shown me that depression can be subtle, sneaky and disguised in symptoms that can be hard to identify. If you are having unexplained pains or aches, often feeling irritable, irked or angry for no discernible reason, crying at the drop of a hat – you could be depressed. This is me lately.

Depression is poking me in the most unexpected way, both physically and behaviourally. I’m obviously very lethargic but what hits hard is the frequent crying spells, the short bursts of spontaneous, out-of-nowhere (sometimes anxiety provoked) teariness. My little brother could be trying to show me a meme on his phone but I’d be very irritated and balancing tears and on the brink of slamming the door on his face just because he called my name “a little louder than usual.” On Monday I cried on the bus to town because I simply felt “unloved.” These feelings honestly make my stomach churn. I want out.

I have also have a significant lack of appetite. One meal per day suffices pretty much. I don’t even feel hungry in between. I’m also experiencing what feels like pathological guilt. I know guilt is a natural sensation at times but I have branded mine as pathological because it painstakingly scans the past and sees only a series of failures. I feel overtly guilty for having been born, guilty for having depression, guilty for having mental illness, right now I can’t think of any major life role (daughter, auntie, friend, girlfriend etc) without being consumed by feelings of guilt.

While these symptoms are specific “clusters” of depression symptoms manifesting to create different experiences of mental illness, it’s not too bad in the grand scheme of things. I mean I experienced another milestone… I turned a year older! Against all odds. Sailed through the shark infested bipolar depression waters of suicidal ideations, guilt tripping and everything in between. Forgive me but I’m happily unhappy, actually very ambivalent about this. Ambivalent for the prime reason that it was only yesterday that I walked into my 20s and let the tinges of adulthood kiss me fresh vibes of a world, tainted, yet beautiful. Ambivalent because now I’m inching closer to the quarter life crisis. Or so I feel.

However I must say turning a year older has triggered my love for reading and writing more. Readership is powerful. The pen is mightier than the sword. Underestimate it at your own peril. I’m falling out of love with my jeans and welcoming comfort to my skimpy dresses. I’m gladly binging on something called love. Something I had previously believed was a misnomer and a fictional concept. Love. Love that is a messed up world. Love that is going to fix us, no matter what.

So… Dear New Age,

You may look like a big number, but to me you are just as old as I am. You are the youngest I’ve ever been yet also the oldest I am. I’m just as paradoxical as you; tainted yet so pure. I would like you to know that I’m in search of something, something still unknown to me. We can discuss this over a year’s time as we turn over a new chapter on 10th December 2019, while we’re stumbling half drunk on our own musings and words. Until then, let’s learn a bit about love and a little more about ourselves. Let’s keep feigning strength until it’s inked in our bones. May we find our yellow brick road to recovery. May it strike us, one day, in retrospect, that these years of struggle for sanity were worthwhile. Peace and love, kid.

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Death, Mental Health

GOD BLESS THE DEAD

Today.

In memory of our angel baby, my nephew, born sleeping. He was the most ethereal of them all; perfect even in death. It just dawned on me how I hoped and prayed he would not just be our rainbow baby but my birthday twin or at least my zodiac twin. I’m eternally grateful he actually turned out to be my zodiac twin. My little sag baby.

Also in memory of our other angel baby, my beautiful niece, born sleeping too, a year ago. She was the most dainty baby I ever laid eyes on. Born endowed with a headful of black curls and perfect caramel skin. So graceful in her deep sleep!

And also in memory of our yet another angel baby, also perfect on so many levels because God does not make mistakes. Our guardian angel, the baby we carried but never met.

In memory of our angel babies. In memory of all the babies we carried but never met. In memory of all the babies we held but could not bring home. In memory of all the babies we brought home but did not stay. In memory of all the little angels too perfect for this tainted earth.

God bless the dead.

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