Today I Envy Heaven

Maya Angelou passed. Often when someone who has done so much and is in their mid 80s dies, I think “well done” and “a life well lived.” She considered her own end and said, “I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around. I’ll probably be writing when the Lord says, ‘Maya, Maya Angelou, it’s time.”

It’s so nice to have these gentle thoughts about losing someone.

Today I do not have these thoughts. Today I am just weepy.

I read her autobiography in college. I saw her on Oprah several times. The “life class” she did on OWN was an EVENT for me. Seriously, I invited people over for lunch. I will never forget watching her deliver her poem at Bill Clinton’s inauguration. The inaugural poem was the first time I had seen her speak outside of conversation. I hesitate to say “perform” because when she read her own words, she seemed to make them live. She did not perform poetry, she embodied it. Years ago I was able to see her speak live as she was the keynote for a professional conference I was attending. I wanted to climb on stage and sit at her feet. I love her.

Because of the limits of my own mother, I had to find my mothering along the way. I picked up the mothering I needed from neighbors, teachers, friends and others as I could find them. Like finding sea glass on the beach,  I found the bits I needed and wanted and made a collection. Including Maya Angelou. Because of her age, her presence- she was a mother figure. Her autobiography told me the stories of her youth and showed me how she had come through it. She made me see the way for me to come through my own stories. And to come through them with still room to love, forgive, and do my best. To leave behind self pity, bitterness and cynicism.

We never met, but she provided a force in this world that I leaned on. Leaning on her eloquent words, her powerful voice, and delightful spirit. She spoke of God and man and life in all its wonders and horrors in a way that you need your mama to do.


When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.


You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, “I forgive. I’m finished with it.”


…Try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.


What is a fear of living? It’s being preeminently afraid of dying. It is not doing what you came here to do, out of timidity and spinelessness. The antidote is to take full responsibility for yourself- for the time you take up and the space you occupy. If you don’t know what you’re here to do, then just do some good.


The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.

And, like all good mamas, she taught me about faith. I don’t have her exact quote, but I will never forget her talking about realizing the same Creator of the earth and all its people loves her.  Really loves her.  And that she was amazed and grateful.

And I think that is a great way to be in the world. To know you are loved by God and be amazed and grateful for it.

Another time, on faith, she said something so true and funny and right.

I’m grateful to be a practicing Christian. I’m always amazed when people say, ‘I’m a Christian.’ I think, ‘Already?’ It’s an ongoing process. You know, you keep trying. And blowing it and trying.

I am grateful God gave us Maya. And grateful she shared her gifts with us. She left a lot for us to hang on to. Like all mothers, she left a legacy that will live on. But, today the world feels emptier for me. Today I mourn a vital mama in my life.

Today, I envy heaven.