Maya Angelou: My lifelong guide

Maya Angelou loomed so large in my life I once crashed a funeral — Alex Haley’s — where I planned to “kidnap” her. The plan to offer her a ride from the church in Memphis, Tenn., to the burial site in Henning made perfect sense: Who wouldn’t want spend about an hour riding up Highway 51 to Haley’s birthplace with Southern-style barbecue smells wafting through air-conditioner vents, telling Maya how she was one of my first friends, confidants and therapists — if only from the pages of her books? I just had to meet her, and if it meant driving three hours from where I was working as a young reporter in Jackson, Miss., to the church that was my refuge as a teen, and crashing the funeral of a famous distant cousin I had never met, so be it. She was basically coming to my home, and I wanted to roll out the red carpet. Alas, Maya couldn’t make it.