It is a sad day for the world. We have lost the laughter of a one of the most healing souls of the last two centuries. Maya Angelou has passed away. I’ll admit I shed some tears. And why would a white girl who lived such a sheltered life she barely knew a black woman until she was grown, weep at the death of a stranger? Although I’ve never met her, Maya did not seem like a stranger to me.
Her empathy, compassion and common sense transcended all barriers of race, politics and wealth. She could put someone in their place as easily as she could comfort them for their pain. She was an honest seeker of truth. She is known for her beautiful poetry, but she didn’t speak for the first few years of her life. She had to overcome being mute to give herself a voice.
She has been my favorite mentor and “shero” and somehow I always felt the world would be okay as long as Maya Angelou was still alive. Like many people, I’ve read her books and followed her interviews with Oprah since I first heard her name over twenty years ago.
It was Maya Angelou who taught me–
“When we know better, we do better.”
“People will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
In her book, “Letter to My Daughter” in which she claims to have daughters of all colors, she taught us,
”You may not control all the events that happen to you,
but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
There is a little known story about her grandson being kidnapped by his mother and separated from his father for four years. Maya would not rest until she brought her grandson home and forgave his mother too—as only Maya could do. (I added a link to the story for anyone who is interested.*)
Maya taught us what it is to forgive, but to never forget. Her words empowered many of us to find our voices and tell our stories.
“I deal very little in facts, facts can obscure the truth,
you can tell so many facts you never get to the truth,
you can tell the places where, the people who,
the times when, the reasons why,
and never get to the human truth
which is love and pain and loss and triumph.”
I especially enjoyed Maya when she was on Super Soul Sunday talking about God.
“There is no place where God is not.
If you are in prison,
in a brutal relationship or lonely, God is there.”
Her faith in God was constant and a testimony in a day and age when many do not believe. Not only did Maya believe but she lived to meet her Maker–
“In all the institutions I try to be present and
accountable for all I do and leave undone.
I know that eventually I shall have to be present
and accountable in the presence of God.
I do not wish to be found wanting.”
Another favorite quote—
Whining lets a brute know
that a victim is in the neighborhood.”
Maya certainly had a lot to whine about if she had chosen that route. Her mother was not good with little children so she left her with her grandmother, Maya was molested as a child, pregnant as a teenager and when her friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered on her fortieth birthday, she refused to celebrate her birthday for years. Yes, Maya grew up in a harsh world, but she was determined to make it a better world and she did.
RIP Peace Maya Angelou, you have enriched our lives and we will never forget you!
Finding her voice:
*Story of Maya Angelou’s search for her grandson