I’ve always had the feeling that life loves the liver of it. You must live and life will be good to you, give you experiences. They may not all be that pleasant, but nobody promised you a rose garden. But more than likely if you do dare, what you get are the marvelous returns. ~Maya Angelou~
I’ve been sitting quietly this morning, listening to the live-stream of Maya Angelou’s memorial service. To hear the words of so many, celebrating the life of a person who harnessed the circumstances of her life to become a positive force in this world, has made for an uplifting morning.
Since hearing the news of her passing, I have been reading the online tributes that chronicle her life and work, each one telling a story of hardship, resilience, courage, humor and lots and lots of love. Each day this week, I felt compelled to write my own, to give my own tribute of sorts to a woman who helped shape the direction of my life. But my earlier drafts just fell flat, as if I was jumping on a bandwagon that I had no business being on, or that had no seat available to me.
The truth is, I never had the opportunity to meet her, although I wished for it in the months after my son’s passing in 2009, knowing she was just a short drive up the road from me in North Carolina. I never spoke to her, and never wrote to her. I always held back, feeling somehow not strong enough, perhaps not worthy enough to reach out and ask of her time.
But as I listened to the stories of her life from the people who loved her dearly, I realized I did have something to say, and it may be something that others can relate to as we say goodbye to her physical presence on this earth.
You see, I sat in the dark with Maya. In the darkest days of my life, I quietly reflected on my very existence, wondering if I was going to be able to stand up again after losing my child. I looked to a few teachers like her for some spark or inspiration, some flicker of hope. So I grabbed one of her books, and I sat with Maya, and Wayne, Pema and Louise. Many days, the heaviness of my grief made me so weary, I did not know if I could turn another page.
I was gutted, and groundless, and I needed someone to urge me on as I ventured into unknown waters. I, listening to this quiet voice within, grieved with gratitude, willing myself to keep breathing, and looking for the “one little things” each day that I could call blessings. I felt so alone in the early days of my journey, not really even understanding why I felt compelled to stand up and say,
“I will not lie down. I will not give up. There is still good around me, even though my life has been shattered. My glue is gratitude and I will put this life of mine back together. I will put it back together one little thing at a time.”
And, sitting in my pajamas, with my son’s photos and memories scattered all around me, I received that spark I desperately needed to continue down the road. And although from the outside it would appear I was alone, I did not feel alone. Maya was sitting with me, encouraging me to listen to that quiet voice within, to follow the signs, and have faith in brighter days. As the months passed, I began to reach out to others, with the courage I received from the generous gift she shared with the world. And, to my amazement, I found out something that I had not realized for all the years leading up to the death of my child. I WAS NOT ALONE. I began to connect to people just like me, all over the world. We were all walking together all along.
I have been on a wondrous path in my life ever since. And I just wanted to say thank you to Dr. Maya Angelou. She was one of my teachers, carrying a lantern filled with hope, leading me towards a light. I believe that there are people on this earth that bring us to the message God wants us to hear, and I will be eternally grateful for her presence in my life, and for listening.
Earlier this week, one of the articles discussing her miraculous time on earth said “The light of the world has grown a little dimmer with the loss…”
I disagree. I never met the woman, but sat in the darkness of my life with her. She brought the light to me, lighting my own candle with her words. Through her grace and courage, she lived a life that was open and generous to others….She illuminated a path for me, and helped me see that I could do the same for someone else.
In the dark, she told me I was going to be okay. She encouraged me to own the truth of my own story, to not hide from the events of my life that brought me sorrow or shame. She told me to not only own it, but to celebrate each moment and live.
She told me I could still live. And now, each morning, I tell people that they can live, and they will be okay.
This world will not be dimmer because of her passing. Her legacy will endure, and her words will serve as a beacon for generations to come. People like me, complete strangers sitting in the dark, trying to find some light will find her, as I did, and see that they too can rise.
Here’s to celebrating a life well lived,