Friday, November 6, 2009

Song Bird

Maya Angelou is, perhaps, my most favorite literary giant. Her words are rich and powerful, touching and poignant, yet she is so altogether unassuming.

Exhibit A recently read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, possibly one of the greatest books of all time, by my estimation. She was moved, as most of us are, by Maya's story.

There's a stand alone Angelou essay about Maya's brother who played an integral part in the events that shaped her life and Exhibit A felt compelled to write her own piece about the single most important person in her world. In keeping with the singing theme, she selected a song that reminded her of her subject and she interwove the lyrics throughout her writing.

She chose me.

She stood in front of the room with her selected piece of music playing in the background and she began to read her words with a confidence we all wish to have when the spotlight shines upon us.

I can't possibly express here the depth of her essay or even hit the highlights, for I know I won't do it justice. I am not sure I've ever felt so utterly overwhelmed with pride, love, humility and gratitude all at the same time.

I can tell you that the part that touched me the most was that she said I was a "working woman"... but she didn't mean I have a job. Instead, she stated that I don't approach anything with less than my best and no matter whether it's a volunteer position, my job, a family matter, fighting an incurable illness or sustaining a relationship with another person, I put forth 150%. She also talked about my green eyes, my mad cooking skillz, my willingness to teach other people new things and, perhaps most touching, my ability to face adversity with courage, strength of character, beauty, grace and an unending sense of humor.

All the while she wove into her essay the following lyrics by Kate Voegele which continued to play in the background:

This road is anything but simple
Twisted like a riddle
I've seen high, I've seen low

So loud, the voices of all my doubts
Telling me to give up
To pack up, leave town

Even so, I had to believe
Impossible means nothing to me

So can you lift me up?
Turn the ashes into flames
'Cause I have overcome
More than words can ever say
I've been given hope
That there's a light on up the hall
And that a day will come when the fight is won
And I think that day has just begun

Somewhere, everybody starts there
I'm counting on a small prayer
Lost in a nightmare
But I'm here, and suddenly it's so clear
The struggle through the long years
It's taught me to outrun my fears

Everything that's worth having
Comes with trials worth withstanding

So can you lift me up?
Turn the ashes into flames
'Cause I have overcome
More than words can ever say
And I've been given hope
That there's a light on up the hall
And a day will come when the fight is one
And I think that day has just begun

Oh lift me up... oh lift me up... oh lift me up
Lift me up, lift me up
Oh, lift me up

Down and out is overrated
And I need to be elevated
Looking up is not enough
No, I would rather rise above

So can you lift me up,
Turn the ashes into flames
'Cause I have overcome
More than words will ever say
And I've been given hope
That there's a light on up the hall
And that a day will come
When the fight is won
And I think that day has just begun


How is it that one so young is so incredibly wise beyond her years and that she understands so much more than so many people who have lived longer and fuller lives? Once again, I am humbled... yet also just incredibly thankful that that my words and actions have reached her, that I am one step closer to where I need to be in order to know with great certainty that my work here is, indeed, done.

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