Messiness, Mosaics, and a Midwife of Words

On Wednesday, May 28th, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and midwife of words, Maya Angelou Imagetransitioned from life to death. After the announcement on Twitter, I spent the next few hours reading memorials, articles, and dedications to the wise woman, activist, creative mother to the nation. Of everything I read, Lev Grossman’s Time Magazine article struck me the most. It was poetic. It was poignant. It was eloquent. There was something more though. Recounting Angelou’s early career, Grossman said she’d been a streetcar conductor, a cook, a waitress, a madam, a prostitute, an actress, a dancer, a singer, a newspaper editor, and a playwright. She was many moving parts. Eclectic. Complicated. Messy. A mosaic. Shards assembled purposefully.

Recently, I’ve been strategizing, trying to take a panoramic view of my life, looking for a central thread, an axis on which to hinge all my gifts, a marketable package. Is it mentoring? Academic advising? Teaching? Preaching? Writing? Travel? Can you think of a one-liner that ties all that together? I didn’t think so! It is a frustrating endeavor. And after reading about the life of Mother Maya, I realized that I don’t have to fit the pieces together. That’s God’s job. All I have to do is turn them towards the light. Eclectic. Complicated. Messy. A mosaic. Shards assembled purposefully.


When I heard the news of her passing, I knew I had to mark this moment. Put a pin in this place in history. But it has taken days to find the words. Yet, even in death, Midwife Maya helps me to push my voice to full volume by reminding me that she wrote I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings when she was 41. I have two more years to practice.

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