My husband’s family was all gathering for the weekend. It was back in 2000 or thereabouts. Everyone decided to head to Joe’s Crab Shack for dinner. I went in and asked the host to put us on the waiting list. He said it would be about thirty minutes and rather than ask me my name, he handed me a plaque with a celebrity name on it. I thought it was a clever way to avoid having to divulge customers’ names or for a person to have their name announced to everyone in the restaurant.
I went back outside, carrying my plaque, where everyone was gathered, and as I found a bench to sit on, I looked at my plaque. It said, “Maya Angelou.” Looking up at my husband, who was standing in front of me with his arms crossed across his chest, happy to be with his brothers and uncle, I asked, “Who is Maya Angelou?” I had an inkling; the name sounded familiar, but I wasn’t sure.
He had no idea, so threw the question out to the others waiting with us. His family could answer any question about sports or politics, so when they all shrugged their shoulders, I knew to eliminate that category. My mind searched deep, and it hit me. I said, “I think she’s a writer!”
My brother-in-law, who was visiting from California, piped up, “Yeah, I think you are right.”
I held her name in my hands and smiled. The Universe had just handed me a gift.
In 1999, I had started seeing a life coach/teacher of consciousness. He recognized a writer within me, and had been encouraging me to write. So I did. I wrote essays, memoirs, poetry and even dabbled in some short fiction. I started writing in a journal and found the answers to many problems, as I wrote my own story. My thoughts and ponderings found clarity upon the paper. I felt in love – or discovered my love – of words!
I sat there that day realizing I could have been handed any celebrity name – Tom Cruise, Scarlett Johansson, Meryl Streep – but any of those would have meant nothing to me. It was a nudge. Keep going.
When I returned home, I went to the library and found books by Maya Angelou. I read and was inspired by her poetry. Later I read her biography, Mom & Me & Mom. If you haven’t read it, it truly is a good read.
Maya Angelou was an inspiration to women everywhere. She lived her life true to herself, honoring herself, going against the odds, and shared her experiences through her writing, taking the risk of being different and divulging her human-ness. In doing so, she opened the door for other women to do the same.
Rest in peace, Maya. May your spirit continue to soar. And thank you for sharing your heart with us.