Maya Angelou, RIP

Reaction to Maya Angelou’s death is going to be broader and deeper than people realize. They’ll say she was a great writer, a teller of experience, a witness. All true. But at the end she was a mystic. A friend who saw this interview, with Oprah Winfrey, said: “She was so close to Heaven.”

Angelou said love is an invisible electric current that lights the world and everything in it, and we don’t even notice. She spoke of the shattering yet building moment when she understood for the first time that “God. Loves. Me.” “It still humbles me that this force which made the leaves and fleas and stars and rivers and you—loves me. Me, Maya Angelou. It’s amazing. I can do anything and do it well, any good thing, I can do it.”

She was not embarrassed to talk like this. She wanted you to understand what she knew; she wanted, graciously, to share it, so you’ll know the current too.

I met her once, 15 years ago at a friend’s house, and she was kindly—distanced, observant, but kindly. She kind of invited you into her world, set the subject and the tone and rhythm of the conversation. She had natural stature. She was 6 feet tall and used to people looking up at her.

She turned her life into art. That took not only gifts but guts, and effort. She worked hard in a career of more than half a century. “To work is to pray.” She was probably close to Heaven long before she knew it.