Rest in Peace, Maya Angelou

by beanalreasa

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Statement from Dr. Maya Angelou’s Family:
Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.

Guy B. Johnson

 

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~~~~

I awoke this morning to the sad news via Tweets and various messages on my newsfeed that Maya Angelou had died.

Within moments of reading the above words, I found myself unable to articulate exactly why I feel such a sense of loss.

Meanwhile, my friend, Sarah Sloane, upon hearing the news, put her feelings succinctly, thus:

 “No…no.  Losing Maya Angelou feels like losing my loving, empowering aunt, the one who told me that my soul had wings.”

Yes, that, Sarah, I agree with you.

Maya Angelou was exactly that.

She was an amazing writer, teacher, and activist certainly, but she was so much more than that to me.

Her words inspired me – in the truest sense of the word ‘inspired’ – and her poetry and essays carried me through some of the darkest hours while I was growing up.

I remember when my father had collected a huge cardboard box full of paperbacks and college textbooks that had been left behind in the dormitories during the summer remodel of Wellesley College in 1984.  (The contractor company that he’d worked for assumed that the crew would just throw away any and all contents of the dorm rooms that were slated for remodeling, but my father has always had difficulty throwing away books of any kind.)

So that’s how I ended up with a dog-eared copy of her autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and her poetry collections, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diie.., and Still I Rise.

I don’t know if that’s exactly what my father would have intended, but I spent that summer, sitting under the back porch, readingreadingreading about the evocative power of love, grief, pain, and spiritual truth that also touched upon race, gender, and the intricacy of human relationships.

And so began my lifelong love of her poetry, her writing, and her keen, unflinching eye that always focused on the humanity in history.   And whether her unflinching eye focused on the good or the bad of humanity, in the end, it seemed to me that the gist of her words always concerned the importance of moving forward, moving upward, toward the exposure of truth, and the revelation of love.

And I needed that in that difficult summer of 1984, when I was 13, and struggling mightily with myself.

I count many of her poems as inspiring, but here are three that I find especially so:

 

Beloved,
In what other lives or lands
Have I known your lips
Your Hands
Your Laughter brave
Irreverent.
Those sweet excesses that
I do adore.
What surety is there
That we will meet again,
On other worlds some
Future time undated.
I defy my body’s haste.
Without the promise
Of one more sweet encounter
I will not deign to die.

~~~

Seven Women’s Blessed Assurance

 
One thing about me,
I’m little and low,
I find me a man wherever I go.
They call me string bean
’cause I’m so tall,
men see me, they ready to fall.
I’m fat as butter and sweet as cake,
men start to tremble
every time I shake.
I’m young as morning and fresh as dew,
everybody loves me, and so do you.
I’m little and lean,
sweet to the bone,
they like to pick me up and carry me home.
When I passed forty, I dropped pretense
’cause men like women who got some sense.
Fifty-five is perfect, so is fifty-nine,
’cause every man needs to rest sometime.
~~~~

Preacher, Don’t Send Me


Preacher, Don’t Send me 
when I die 
to some big ghetto 
in the sky 
where rats eat cats 
of the leopard type 
and Sunday brunch 
is grits and tripe.

I’ve known those rats 
I’ve seen them kill 
and grits I’ve had 
would make a hill, 
or maybe a mountain, 
so what I need 
from you on Sunday 
is a different creed.

Preacher, please don’t 
promise me 
streets of gold 
and milk for free. 
I stopped all milk 
at four years old 
and once I’m dead 
I won’t need gold.

I’d call a place 
pure paradise 
where families are loyal 
and strangers are nice, 
where the music is jazz 
and the season is fall. 
Promise me that 
or nothing at all.

~~~

Rest in peace, dear Maya Angelou.

It is with tears in my eyes that I thank you. and wish you safe journey.

May all promises be kept.

 

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