Famous memoirist, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou died this week.
The Internet became awash with her quotes, her life story and her poetry. My favorite clip was her talking about her relationship with her mother in a video titled “Love Liberates.”
“I am grateful to have been loved, and to be loved now, and to be able to love, because that liberates,” she said. “Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold; that’s ego. Love liberates.”
In the video, Dr. Angelou recalled that when she left home at 17, her mother said “Remember this: You can always come home.”
“I went home every time life slammed me down and made me call it ‘Uncle,’” she said. “My mother never once acted as if ‘I told you so.’ She said ‘Oh, baby’s home! Oh, my darling! Mama’s going to cook you something.’ Love. She liberated me to life. She continued to do that.”
She recalled another anecdote from when she was still young and her mother said “You know, I think you’re the greatest woman I ever met.”
Dr. Angelou was surprised at the compliment, because she knew her mother had met many great women.
“I thought, ‘Suppose she’s right. She’s intelligent, and she says she’s too mean to lie. So suppose I am going to be somebody.’ She released me. She freed me to say ‘I may have something of value, maybe not just to me.’ You see? That’s love.”
When her mother lay dying, she knew the roles would have to be reversed and she would need from her daughter what she had given her as she grew up.
“I remembered her liberating me, and I said ‘I hope I’ll be able to liberate her.’ She deserved that from me,” Dr. Angelou said.
So when her mother was on her deathbed, Dr. Angelou told her “If you need permission to go, I liberate you.”
Love is comfortable loving someone from a distance if that’s what the person needs, she said.
“Love liberates, it doesn’t bind. Love says ‘I love you if you’re in China, I love you if you’re across town, I love you. I would like to be near you. I would like to have your arms around me, I’d like to have your voice in my ear, but that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.”