Most of the time when you hear a celebrity has died, it’s just shocking. But everyone once in a while when a famous person passes away, you feel a genuine sense of loss. Like there’s now this absence in the world—your world—because they are no longer in it. The first time this happened to me was when Whitney Houston died.
Now, with the news that Maya Angelou is gone, it’s happening again. At a young age I either wrote a paper on her or read her autobiography—I forgot which one, but it left me with the sense that she’s someone I’ve known for most of my life.
(Photo by York College ISLGP)
One of the Most Inspiring Writers of Our Lifetime
If I had to use one word to describe Maya Angelou, it would be inspiring.
Inspiring as a Person
She’s inspiring as a person because she had this crazy emotional strength. She’s quoted so often because her philosophy is uplifting. She makes you believe that you too can be victorious, triumphant, conquering, etc. no matter what you’re dealing with. Even her autobiography is entitled “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
Think about that for a second. The idea of a bird being trapped yet still finding a reason to sing.
Maya Angelou encouraged you to have compassion and faith in yourself, and to embrace the gift of life even in the most difficult times. And she did so both through her words and her actions.
Inspiring as a Writer
She is also inspiring to me as a writer. Maya Angelou had a gift. It was more like Whitney Houston’s voice–innate talent perfected over time–than simply a mere reflection of discipline, in my opinion (although she obviously worked hard). She had this ability to lyrically turn a phrase, but in a way that was also accessible. She accomplished what most writers aspire to do, I think. She touched people. Through her poems and books she showed readers that she understood them. And we also understood her.
Anyway, it’s a sad day. But I’m glad to say that I lived during the Maya Angelou era.