The beautiful soul that is Maya Angelou travelled home yesterday, her earthly task of shining light into dark places completed. And if at our moment of transition we review our physical experience, it will have been spiritually rewarding to see the impact her writing and insight had upon so many. But so much physical and emotional experience went into the blending of the amazing woman who was Maya.
Did you realise, for example, that for five years Maya was mute, refusing to speak because she believed her speaking out against the man who sexually abused her caused his death? No, I didn’t either. But in that self-inflicted silence a great understanding and appreciation of listening and observation was born, her extraordinary memory developed along with a great love of books and literature. These amazing gifts, developed through Maya’s experience of pain, were the very vehicles through which wisdom and enlightenment were freely shared. And let’s not overlook Maya’s tremendous courage, pushing back boundaries and allowing her voice to be heard.
Maya was one of the first African American women to publish details of her personal life because, until then, black female writers weren’t allowed to present themselves as a central character in their writing. Imagine that for a moment. The seven autobiographies, three books of essays and several books of poetry are all the more special for it.
Know what I really love, though? That this lady lived life to the fullest. Oh yes, married at least twice, Maya declined to confirm how many marriages she’d had “for fear of sounding frivolous” – isn’t that terrific? Oh how I’d have loved to spend a couple of hours listening to stories of love, loss, life and everything in between!
I didn’t meet this lady, neither have I read all her books and yet I feel a sense of loss at her passing. Similar emotions are registering all over the planet today. My goodness, what an amazing measure of a towering legacy of enlightenment that represents. Who could have guessed that, as baby Marguerite Ann Johnson took her first breath on 4th April, 1928, she would be celebrated across the world as she took her last?
It got me thinking. The same courage and fortitude that Maya found within are there for each of us so why do we sometimes hide from being the most magnificent we can be – warts and all? Maya did what she needed to do at the time it was necessary and, through her learning, shared leadership and guidance throughout the world. It wasn’t an easy path. It was a courageous expression of the true spirit within, born at a time when her light in the world was needed.
So come on, out of fondness and respect for an amazing lady, let’s do the best we can to create the positive impact we’re here to share and, in so doing, live and love our journey of discovery and the places we’ll visit. Or we can sit on the settee and watch telly.