An Open Letter of Thanks to Dr. Maya Angelou

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TO THE INDOMITABLE DR. MAYA ANGELOU,

When I heard that you had passed, my first feelings were not of sadness, but of joyfulness and contentment. As if humanity was collectively letting out a satisfied sigh after a fit of laughter, your leaving this world merely highlighted the bright flicker of your flame while it shone so bright, like the night sky at the end of a parade of dancing, jubilant fireworks.

Like the passing of any great artist, our appreciation for your bright light is punctuated by the experience of standing in a world that continues to carry the torch of your essence long after your body is gone. It is impossible not to see the impact of your life.

Your words gave us strength, confidence, and hope.

You gave a voice to women and to people of color. Perhaps even more so, your voice spoke for the oppressed, the down but not out, the broken but not beyond repair. You were a living symbol of resiliency, courage, and redemption. You voiced hope for the world from before the Civil Rights Movement to the time of the first Black President of the United States. You were the first female cable car driver in San Francisco, a dancer, singer, song writer, poet, painter, author, teacher, actor, mother, and so much more. You were awarded multiple doctorate degrees as well as Tony and Pulitzer nominations.

To me, perhaps one of the most impactful statements you ever said was about identity. You believed and hoped that people should be more than one “thing” in this life:

“A person should be able to be a painter, and a plumber and a poet. You see, and I don’t see why we have decided that we should be only one thing or the other. It should be ‘and.’ I think, though, human beings often paint or own selves into corners, or allow ourselves to be painted into corners, that is to say we accept labels for ourselves and then say this is what I do and this is all I do. Well I don’t believe that that is true of any human being. I think we all come from the Creator, trailing wisps of glory.”

Thank you, Dr. Angelou, for believing that life should be lived with AND.

We celebrate your life so well lived, and one caged bird that has been set free.

Thank you… for everything.

 

With Deepest Admiration,

Dr. Therese

(A Woman who lives life with a whole lot of “ands”)