I have been positively imprinted by so many wonderful writers that I am also impacted when they die. When Frank McCourt died, my friends & I, all authors, each read excerpts from his books at a cherished, independently owned, local bookstore.
I read from Angela’s Ashes. This was our way of paying tribute to Frank, acknowledging his contributions and marking a significant loss. Though I did not know him personally, his writing is part of his legacy and it was a gift to me. It makes sense that I felt like acknowledging the gift and his unique life in some way, showing my respect and gratitude.
Other ways to acknowledge a loss include: lighting a candle, sharing a meal, blogging, posting a favorite quote on social media, donating books to individuals, libraries or organizations, facilitating a book club discussion, presenting a program about the writer, sending a sympathy card, offering a register book for people to sign, signing an online guest book, hosting a theme party, hosting or attending a Celebration of Life service.
Maya Angelou’s death is a more recent example of the loss of a favorite writer, poet, speaker and engaged activist. One of my favorite Dr. Maya Angelou quotes is, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”
I have re-framed this quote to offer assistance when companioning bereaved people in support groups. For example, if someone is ruminating about what they might have done differently to have changed the outcome/death, or if they are processing some perceived or actual culpability in the death, grieving people have taught me that they have been helped by considering whether they did the best they knew how at the time or in their particular circumstances and they have often been able to move forward having learned some lessons or having pondered how to incorporate their unique experiences in healthy ways, perhaps in service to themselves or others.
I challenge you to think about something you have learned from one of your favorite writers and apply that to help yourself or in service to someone else.
Thanks for your thoughtful article. May Angelou was an inspiration to us all.