by Donnie Hayden
© 2014, all rights reserved
Dr. Maya Angelou
April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014
You have sung in your cage, sung in Your release and now You sing, flying free! I cannot offer up Your praise and give words of your many accomplishments. There are many others that knew You, knew You well and that can do the far better telling. I can only shed my own tears of the sad and of the joy. I can only say here, what You mean to me. I call You Maya because, it’s deeply personal and You are this to me, as if I have always known You, though I have never met You, though as if I have! We are not related. Our skins and sins are not the same. We came here to life at different times. All that I may leave here pales, to what, You have left. But I love You and I know You loved me because, You lived!
Your first book, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ set You not upon your path, but it brought many to you and my seeking heart to your path and with your smile, You bid any and all, welcome!
I always thought of You as my dear and trusted aunt, though I never had the privilege of meeting You. You were born in my home state of Missouri. You lived in Arkansas and I first met of You, when I lived there. I will never forget Your performance in the 1995 movie, ‘How to Make an American Quilt!’ You had only a small part. You did neither write it nor directed it. You were not its narrator. Your character was Anna. You told the story of, “the story quilt.” You are the “story quilt.” You were the master quilter and brought every person into this story. And it is brilliant and so deep and has so many meanings on so many levels. It was more than about a quilt for one woman. It was more than just about women or a movie for women. It was about people, all people. Ignorance makes us all slaves to something or to someone. But together are we freed, WE the many different and beautiful “shreds,” make up ‘An American Quilt!’ ‘An American Quilt,’ is by far, my favorite movie of all time. To me, You were the whole movie! I cannot imagine it being written, directed, acted or presented without You. All the great acting, music and sets were the background. You are its subject. You are the quilting needle; WE are the quilt!
“It’s a story quilt. It’s meant to be read.”
“That summer the Grasse quilting bee did something they’ve never done before. Anna called everyone back and wouldn’t let them go home until they finished the quilt. They all worked [straight through the night] sustained by Anna’s will and gallons of ice tea.”
Young lovers seek perfection.
Old lovers learn the art of sewing shreds together
and of seeing beauty in a multiplicity of patches
“As Anna says about making a quilt, you have to choose your combination carefully. The right choices will enhance your quilt. The wrong choices will dull the colors, hide their original beauty. There are no rules you can follow. You have to go by your instinct. And you have to be brave.”
excerpts from the transcript: ‘An American Quilt’
I hear You and see You and feel You in every frame of the whole movie and in the following video clip.
Your last Tweet on Twitter:
Your last personal Facebook post was typical of, your concern for others
Maya Angelou May 26, 2014
“And now we come to the day [Memorial Day] where we can honor the brave men and women who have risked their lives to honor our country and our principles. Our history is rife with citizens who care and who are courageous enough to say we care for those who went before us.”
You earned three Grammys, spoke six languages, and were the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. You received two Presidential Medals of Honor from two separate presidents, one for Art and the most important, for Freedom.
On Thursday, May 28, 2014, you took your last breath and I was breathless when I knew.
On your Facebook page:
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
You were a beautiful young girl, a beautiful young woman, a beautiful woman, and a beautiful lady in Your glorious sunset! There is no place for a beautiful mind to be shone, than shining out and upon, from within!
My favorite poem of Yours, I will share here to follow. You meant a lot to me personally, and I will greatly miss Your presence on this earth and in the life that I have left!
Still I Rise
by Maya Angelou, 1928 – 2014
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
How does one summarize the impact of a single life? Indeed, there have been countless books penned, poems and paintings that have tried to capture this deep enigma. Perhaps the smallest sentence to have ever seized all the emotion of loss comes from the Bible,
William Shakespeare from ‘King Lear,’ concluded a single life simply and plainly with the words,
But the things penned, the poems, the paeans, and paintings all try to show the eons of time, events and unique forming that brought forth the birth of a single life. And then they try to show the waves and connections and spheres of influence from all the moments and all the years of a single life. And thus a summing up of all that are touched by this single life may simply and plainly conclude –
No one can escape tears sometimes. Sometimes these droplets of one’s measured life are of great joy. Sometimes these droplets of one’s measured life are of great sorrow. The push of sorrow and the pull of joy is this not like a crib and are we not cradled of love? A life enters and exits, but leaves a cradle rocking. The push and pull continues. Turn the page, keep reading. Pen, poem and paint. Rock the cradle, for the point is
Note: a “paean” – any song of joy, praise or triumph
From the collection: ‘Full Measure’ © 2008-2014 by the same author, all rights reserved
Even more than my ‘Cradle’ poem, You taught me to always trust love –
“Have enough courage to trust love one more time
and always one more time.”
Even more than my ‘Cradle’ poem, You taught me that all of us are shackled or we bear the scars of something that enslaves. But my favorite words from You are, only two.
You sang in Your cage. You sang when Your caged was opened. You sing now in freedom’s flight. Many will fly because, of You.
I will rise
I will sing
Your loving liberated nephew,