My Newsfeed is awash in the news that Maya Angelou has died.
I found out a few hours ago, while standing in line at the Costco. It’s been a sad and difficult week already. I’ve been melancholy about the Isla Vista shooting. Santa Barbara is a beautiful city; I’ve loved my visits there, and we have good friends who call that city home. And so I was contemplating this senseless tragedy as I wandered the Costco in a funk, and then I was in line and passing time scrolling my Newsfeed, and I saw that Maya had left us.
Maya was like a grandmother to me. Not because I knew her. No, she was the grandmother that I and millions of privileged white girls wished we’d had. Everyone knows that grandmothers are not to be trifled with. Every time I read something by or about Maya, I felt I could hear her talking to me, comforting and advising or chiding me. “Child . . . “, she’d say, and then Maya would tell me what I should do.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have grandmothers. Both my grandmothers were very involved in my life and one of them was particularly outspoken. She didn’t start things with “Child . . . “, she’d say, “Listen here . . . . ” (and I WOULD.)
I think it was what Maya represented. My God, she’d suffered through segregation, integration, the MLK assassination. And remained so powerful and strong, and at the same time quiet. Regal, and also accessible.
And so as I exited Costco with my 12-pack of solar lawn lights, I thought about Maya, and the lighted path she carved. And I no longer felt melancholy, but inspired and lifted. Each of us has our own path to carve and light. Thank God for stars like Maya to show us the way.