I’m not that big a fan of poetry, but I’ll never pass up a chance to read it when I find it. I’ve tried writing some on occasion and never liked it so stopped trying.
More than anything about this remarkable woman, who came to me by way of Bill Clinton’s inaugural event, is her voice. Not the writer’s voice but her actual, physical voice. It’s in a vocal tone unlike any other, and of a rare instance that will become unforgettable even with time.
Julia Child, Paul Lynde, James Earl Jones, Sam Elliot, and even dear Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne) possessed this kind of a voice. Unmistakable and that which instantly brings to mind most anything they ever said or did to entertain us.
This isn’t going to be a post about Miss Angelou’s death, her life, accomplishments, or fame. I just wanted to memorialize her as a fellow writer with struggles not unlike my own, and on this rainy Wednesday in Michigan, listening to the hauntingly beautiful Russian Choir sing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Easter Vigil (Слава Господу, душе моя, or Praise the Lord, Oh, my Soul) it seems fitting.
Death isn’t something I look at the way countless others do, though. It’s upsetting, produces tears, and grief due to sudden loss. Still, I am not one to mourn. Dwell, yes. Remember as time goes by either with a smile or more tears, on occasion. But, I accept death with far more calm and rationality than I do life, surprise, or even nature’s wonders. Those evoke more of my emotional outbursts and uncontrolled emotion than death can.
At weddings, baby births, a waterfall, or at sea, I’m a blithering idiot filled with all kinds of the most strange and wonderful feelings that can’t be contained. Not so much at funerals. At funerals I people-watch, comfort to no end of exhaustion, listen intently, or simply sit quietly and dwell on the person departed. I say very little, shed few tears, and … exist … if not for those left to pick up the pieces of their broken link lives.
People have asked if I would be that way were it an immediate family member, or one of my children.
And, yes. Yes, I can’t imagine myself behaving any other way than I’ve always been accustomed to behaving. When a child is born, the expectations for that new human know no bounds. When a couple tie the knot, those same feelings are invoked – wanting only the best for them and imagining things a year from now, five, ten, twenty, fifty years down the road. Visiting someplace majestic enough to take your breath away, shedding tears as you stand in complete awe and wonder.
I’ve mentioned before how my parents were both quite old when they decided to marry and raise a family together. Funerals became a fact of my life from the time I was three and practically every subsequent year from then on. As of today, my mother and one of her sister’s-in-law are the only living relics of that big family. I’ve had to attend nearly as many funerals of cousins, and more than a dozen of the friends I’ve met from school.
This experience and drawing on what little faith remains in my soul are what help me to cope in a way unlike most others during such times.
Death is inevitable, and there is no changing it or taking it back so that it can be done at some other time or in some other manner.
Death brings peace for the dead, and I want their souls to be in that peace.
My Favorite Maya Angelou Poem