On May 28, as I was dressing to go on set to film the movie Selma, I got the call from Maya Angelou's longtime assistant, confidante, and friend, Mrs. Stuckey: Maya was gone.

I felt a jolt. Then a shift inside myself.

I had recently been to see her and had spoken to her just three days before. Her last words to me: "Love you, babe." "Love!" I replied.

In the hours and days that followed her passing, I was surprised that I never felt sadness. At times, I did feel a kind of numb nothingness, a foreign void, knowing I could never again pick up the phone and hear the joy in her voice when she said, "Hello, you darling girl." The sense of physical loss is deep and real.

But, oh my, I cannot tell you what a breakthrough it has been to open myself up to her spiritual presence. I feel her everywhere. In the breeze, in my voice, in every encounter, her spirit abides with me.

For years I've told people, "When someone you love dies, you now have an angel you can call by name."

I've always felt my grandmother Hattie Mae was head of my angel team, along with legions of ancestors unknown to me. Now I believe Maya, who loved me fiercely while she was here, is co-captain. I fully understand what she meant in her poem "Our Grandmothers" when she said, "I go forth alone, and stand as ten thousand."

I continue to marvel at a life so well lived and well loved. I adored her and celebrated her continuously while she inhabited this earth. Our parties were legendary.

And between us, nothing was left unsaid. Nothing too personal to share or expose. I could be 100 percent myself without ever feeling judged. Even when she disagreed with me.

At her memorial I said she was my queen/mother. And now that she's gone, I think I value and love her even more. Without the density of her body, I can better feel the intensity of her spirit.

I feel stronger. More awake and more alive and ready to carry on her legacy. Sharing with the world the poetry of courage and respect.

I've always believed that death shows up to remind us to live more fully. Now I know it for sure.


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