A Life Well Lived | Celebrating Dr. Maya Angelou


Today family and close friends gathered to celebrate the life and ascension of Dr. Maya Angelou. The tributes told stories of lives she had touched and impacted in ways that I bet even she couldn’t imagine. As I watched I found myself wondering who amongst us can give so much of themselves? Who in this present day generation, would be loved, respected and celebrated by so many in this manner by our children’s children?

As we celebrate her and say farewell, we reiterate our appreciation for the pieces of herself that she has left with us and everything that she did for humankind especially for us women. And as Michelle Obama rightfully pointed out, not just black women, but all women including the white woman from Kansas, who named her daughter Maya after Dr Angelou, and raised her son to become the first black president of the United States of America.

Enjoy some inspiring bits from some of tributes given.

…Thank you for calling our attention to the things you paid attention to…As long as we have the time, we should keep the courage to begin again. That’s what you did and how blessed we are because of it… – Bill Clinton on Maya Angelou

…The loss I feel I cannot describe. Its like something I have never felt before. She was my spiritual queen mother… She taught me the poetry of courage and respect… When I was on trial in 1998 in Texas for saying something bad about a burger. Yes. For 6 weeks I was on trial sued by the Texas cattlemen. Mama Angelou came to Texas with the prayer posse. And we all know that Maya was a force all by herself but the force came with backup. They prayed all day and all night long. And Maya would sit in the courtroom while I testified. The prosecuting attorneys didn’t know what hit them. It was at the same time that I had met Dr. Phil who was coaching me on how to behave in the courtroom and he said look in the jurors eyes and Maya said; ‘No, look above their heads and stand still inside yourself and know who you are. You are God’s child.’ She told me and in God you move and breath and have your being. Of course we won that trial… – Oprah Winfrey on Maya Angelou

… As a child my first doll was Malibu Barbie. That was the standard for perfection. That was what the world told me to aspire to. But then I discovered Maya Angelou and her words lifted me right out of my own little head. Her message was very simple. She told us that our worth has nothing to do with what the world might say. Instead she said each of us comes from the creator trailing wisps of glory. She reminded us that we must each find our own voice, decide our own value and then announce it to the world with all the pride and joy that is our birthright, as members of the human race. Dr Angelou’s words sustained me on every step of my journey. Through lonely moments in ivy coloured classrooms and colourless skyscrapers, through blissful moments mothering two splendid baby girls, through long years on the campaign trail where at times my very womanhood was dissected and questioned. For me that was the power of Maya Angelou’s words. Words so powerful that they carried a little black girl from the south side of Chicago all the way to the White House… – Michelle Obama on Maya Angelou

…She was a giver. She gave to the old, she gave to the poor, she gave to the young, she gave to institutions, wherever the need was she gave out of her heart. Well the giving really didn’t stop with material things it really manifested itself in her teachings. It is not by accident that she spent 32 years in this prestigious institution giving of herself, giving of her insights giving of her wisdom to her students and it didn’t just stop with her students. You know and I know now why the caged bird sings. The caged bird sings because she gave. You know and I know now what makes a phenomenal woman because she taught us… You know and I know now why it is so important that God placed a rainbow in the cloud. And you know she said he had to place it in the cloud because if he had placed it above the clouds, the clouds could obscure it and if he placed it below the clouds, they may lower themselves but he placed it in the cloud so that no matter what your problem, no matter what your difficulty, no matter what your pain is, you can have hope and courage and know that God was there because she taught us that didn’t she?…  – Pastor and close friend on Maya Angelou

… We are calling this memorial service a Rising Celebration of Joy because my mother loved the concept of joy. She felt it was an important emotion to keep in one’s life because often, it was the difference between striving and thriving. In the midst of our sadness we are finding joy. You see the last 10 years of her life were struggle or pain. She was suffering. She was suffering all the pains that a professional dancer endures after years of dancing on unyielding floors. Plus she was fighting against all the negative effects of respiratory failure. But my mother defied the doctor’s diagnosis. She continued her life with drive, enthusiasm and grace completing four or more books in the last ten years. When the good Lord called her she left this mortal plain with full acuity and no loss in comprehension and she died in her sleep. We are joyful for the manner in which my mother made her ascension and now we are ready to celebrate her life. There is no mourning here… Her body of work from her public appearances to her published work speak to the commonality of all humankind.  She was a voice for justice, equality and love.  My mother’s beliefs were that greed and prejudice were divisive constructs which hinder our efforts for greatness. She believed that we are indeed responsible  for our brothers and sisters  regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, sexual persuasion, religion or gender. Anything that diminishes a human being diminishes all of us… She often said that courage was the most important virtue because without courage one cannot practice any of the other virtues with consistency… If you wish to honour her legacy you will look upon yourself and ask what are you doing to improve the human condition?  She will ask you how will you challenge yourself to make a contribution to better the world in which we live?… Humanity and the world require your attention.  When you learn, teach. When you get, give… – Guy B Johnson on his mother

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