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Updated: Apr 20, 2023

All the days leading up to this day are emotional. I keep affirming my choice to be where I am. Meaning I give myself permission to be happy, sad or anything in between. (There is a LOT of in between!)

This morning two birds, pigeons specifically, woke me up having a conversation outside my window. I rolled over, looked at them and said to myself, "I love you Siwe." She loved every aspect of nature, flora, fauna but especially birds and butterflies. Even the things others did not enjoy like rain and insects fascinated her. I am open to receiving her messages and thankful for them. #siwelives

Siwe ended her life and her battle with depression by taking her life on June 29th, 2011. Two years later I remember the day so clearly and the multitude of lessons I learned that day.

  • The creator gave us FREE WILL.

  • Depression is a disease.

  • I am loved.

  • People care.

  • Life goes on.


With our gift of consciousness and awareness we choose our actions. On that day I was overly confident that suicide was not an option for Siwe. It was a Wednesday. She was meeting her older sister to go shopping. She LOVED both shopping and Ayoka fiercely. Thursday she was volunteering with her best friend doing childcare at a conference for pregnant women sponsored by the Harlem Birth Action Committee (HBAC). She LOVED volunteering, Jasmine and small children fiercely. It would have been her third year in a row volunteering with them. Friday we were going to Radio City Music Hall with her brothers to see Zarkana, the newest Cirque De Soleil show at that time. She LOVED live performances, family time and circuses. Saturday we were going to a cookout with her first and only school bus driver, Frances. She LOVED Frances fiercely and the feeling was mutual. I was CLEAR that she had enough reasons to live until Sunday. I was so wrong. One can NEVER calculate the actions of another human being with 100% accuracy because the creator gave us the gift of free will. DEPRESSION IS A DISEASE. Siwe had been dealing with depression since she was 4 years old. It was not diagnosed at that time but in reflecting over her life and when her suicide attempts began. I can clearly see a myriad of warning signs that this beautiful melancholy child was not merely going to "grow out it." No one expects you to grow out of Cancer. Depression is a mental illness that requires ever evolving and consistent care. I AM LOVED. With the 3-4 phone calls I made to share my deep loss, word spread like a wild fire. Calls. Text messages. Knocks on the door. Vacation plans were changed and my community was there for me. They cooked, cleaned, wiped tears, and propped me and my family up until we could stand on our own again. I can never thank them enough. PEOPLE CARE. Neighbors I have never seen or spoken too shared their love. The police officers (plain clothes and uniformed), nurses, doctors, EMTs, social workers, et cetera were all empathetic. Yes empathetic not sympathetic. They exhibited a sense of care, urgency and sensitivity that I did not realize was possible. Even the block "entrepreneurs" expressed their condolences. People that could not speak English found someone to translate their messages to me in English. And when there was no one to translate, they stopped me on the street and hugged me. LIFE GOES ON. I was in the hospital for a long time before, during and after Siwe's death. When I left that hospital that day with one of my priests from Onipa Abusia, Nana Adzua Opare, I was amazed to see sunlight and people walking around. It was surreal. I looked around and soaked it all in. My world had been unimaginable impacted. I had not told a single blood family member yet. How could the sun shine? How could so many people be walking around as if NOTHING had happened? My troubled angel was gone. In the short 3 block walk from the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital to my home... I got that LIFE GOES ON. Period. Still, June 29th is my personal 9/11. I feel it in that way. It is sacred for me. In the same way that we mark the Gregorian calendar with before Christ and after Christ, in my universe time is now relative to before and after Siwe's death. She changed my life from the moment she was conceived, to the moment she died and she continues to shape me. In my heart and mind #siwelives and I love where my life is now but would trade it all in to have her in my arms physically ALIVE. I am so grateful for my 15 years with her. My beloved friend Bassey Ikpi, founder of The Siwe Project says, "Love someone and mean it." I modify that daily in my life to "HUG someone and mean it." Do that for me please. Today and every day, "HUG someone and mean it." You never know if it is your last hug or their last hug. INjoy, dionne

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