Today is a day I remember two women. The first: my mother, who died on this date 16 years ago. She was the age I will turn in May (God willing). Ever since I was 28, I've been haunted by the idea that I might die the same way she did (of breast cancer) and at the same age she did. It looks like I'm going to make it past the age she was when she died (God willing). And who knows how I'll go? Perhaps this is one fear it's time to let loose. A poem by Lucille Clifton says it better than I ever could:
poem on my fortieth birthday to my mother who died young
well i have almost come to the place where you fell
tripping over a wire at the forty-fourth lap
and i have decided to keep running.
head up, body attentive, fingers
aimed like darts at first prize, so
i might not even watch out for the thin thing
grabbing toward my ankles but
i'm trying for the long one mama,
running like hell and if i fall
The other woman I commemorate today is Nina Simone, who was born on this date 75 years ago.
On the surface these two women seem to have nothing in common. Nina Simone, born in the south, a piano protege, a voice like no other, mother to one daughter. My mother, born and raised in the midwest, not famous, couldn't sing, mother of three children. But they were both larger than life characters. Each one just...herself. Each one an inspiration. Each one on my mind and in my heart today.