Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mom, Grandmom To All: Maya Angelou's Legacy With Me

My fav image of Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Like the rest of the world, I took the passing of author and poet Maya Angelou really hard when I saw it in my stream of news.  I was overwhelmed by so many emotions and I wept reading key pieces of her work the other night. Then, it occurred to me that the most important thing I'll miss about Dr. Angelou is her mothering and grandmothering of me. Yep. Me, personally from a far.

I picked the photo of Dr. Angelou on purpose because it represents something to me.


Things my sweet mom and maternal grandmom were not blessed with.

Maya Angelou only birthed one child physically, her son Guy in 1945 when she was just 17 years old.  Yet, she said on many occasions that she was fortunate to be the "mother to many people".  I was one of those people.

From a distance, from a far - as soon as I connected with Maya Angelou's writing, she was a mother figure to me.  Followers of this blog know well that my own mom, Betty Jean Jackson (Wilmer)  lost her life at the tender age of 24 years old in 1976 when I was just 4 years old.  For much of my life, I've resisted real-life, up close mother figures.  So it was easy to have this distant yet close in spirit mom figure in Maya Angelou.  However, as I read more and devoured information about her in her death, I realized that she'd moved a space from mother to grandmother in the later years of our "relationship."

I realized upon "losing"  Maya that, in addition to being a motherless daughter, I never had a close relationship with a grandmother either. On my paternal side, I had a grandmother who enjoyed a long life until 1997. Unfortunately, I never had the privilege to know and/or enjoy her.  My mom's mom, who was nearby and very involved in our lives, passed away suddenly in her 50s in the mid 80s. I've always said she passed away from a broken heart.

An only child of sharecroppers in Arkansas, my grandmother Lois Anderson had four children of her own. My mom, Betty was her first child and when she lost her, it was said that she never truly recovered from the blow.  Then in late 1983, she lost her own mom and barely lived another 90 days passing away in her early 50s in 1984. The legacy of early death haunts me. So, at some point over the years, I transferred my maternal feelings toward Maya Angelou to those of a grandmother. Without one on earth for most of my life, I just made Maya Angelou my grandmother.

I looked forward to any news from her and the releases of her books. When we got Twitter and she joined, I eagerly followed to feel connected to her and her wisdom.

Now, I'm officially without "mother and grandmother" Maya Angelou. And even though  I've been in this place before, this time, I'm left with tangible evidence of her presence in my life through her writings.

Thank you, Dr. Maya.


  1. Yep, I know why the caged bird sings. Got to make the best of every situation on everyday. Life happens and it is not in our hands. My mother died suddenly a couple months before my Wedding. I asked my father if I should postpone my Wedding. He said 'no'. Four years later my father died suddenly on the day I had my first child. I didn't tell anyone when my second child was due, cuz I didn't want anymore sudden deaths. When I had my third child it was my first C section and I almost died from blood loss. No fourth child, cuz three children was a lot for me. Found out years later the guy I married didn't love me and never wanted children. Marriage failed even after all the struggles and effort, cuz it wasn't meant to be in the first place. My advice is to keep life as simple as possible. Everyday is a gift. I'm glad to be plantin' daisies instead of pushin' up daisies.