Today I can’t help but weep for such a powerful, dignified, honest voice gone from this world.
But I haven’t read any more of Maya Angelou than your average 20-something has done. What I have read I’ve loved, but I can’t say I am “familiar.” Her words aren’t my relatives, my companions. They are my fond acquaintances, I have visited infrequently.
But I weep.
Because a voice like hers is rare. Even nominal awareness belies her profound grasp on what it means to be a human. And today has been colored with her work and her style and her laugh and her story.
I have heard “Still I Rise” three times today in her voice.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard?
Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard
She laughs at that part. Deep and unrehearsed though she must have recited it often.
She said in an old NPR interview, “There is no human sound that is unbeautiful to me.” And I think of that laugh because it gives me chills and I wish I could have known her and sat at her feet to learn what it means to find your voice and follow it. To learn what it is to undergo so much of the worst kind of bad in the world and still insist on calling it beautiful.
And now the people who’ve read every word she’s ever written will be joined with people like me and we’ll all throw up a tribute of grief and gratitude. And the latter will dredge up old high school textbooks and we’ll scour the internet to quench our thirst for her rhythms. And the former will close their eyes and smell the poetry and prose that has been sewn into their identities.
I want to hug someone. I want to mourn with another human the loss of one of our beacons, one of our criers in the dark, one of our prophets to the heavens – naming this experience and reminding angels that we’re here.
Here’s to you, Maya Angelou… Thank you for thriving.