‘If it falls, it falls, but darlin’, I will have been as present as possible’


Maya Angelou in 2004. (Hector Mata/AFP/Getty)

“Long ago, when I was about 21, I had a visitation of my mortality,” she says. “I suddenly realized that I wouldn’t live forever, and it so frightened me that I may have gone through a mild breakdown.”

For several months, she says now, she was unable to sleep. “But I finally came through it, and admitted that I would die, that it was the one promise that would not be reneged on. Now given that, what will I do, what can buy me to do anything? They can’t buy me life….Every moment is precious.

“You bring all your equipment to everything, holding back nothing because that might be the last moment. I am constantly aware of that, which makes me existential in a very strange and serious way. So that all my stuff is here. I mean all my stuff is here. So that when I get on that plane tonight, and if it falls, it falls, but darlin’, I will have been as present as possible, and as courageous as possible, and not a bore. Not a drag.”

That’s Maya Angelou, speaking to The Washington Post in 1981 to commemorate the publication of her book “The Heart of a Woman.” Angelou, 86, died Wednesday at her home in North Carolina. “Life doesn’t get any easier…Sometimes it’s going to be better, and sometimes it’s going to be worse and part of the commitment one makes to life so hang on,” she said in 1981. “Life loves the livers of it.”

Related: Reactions to Angelou’s death. | The Post’s 1970 review of “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.”

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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