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McBride: The Maya Angelou I knew

By Martina McBride
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1140 GMT (1940 HKT)
Maya Angelou, a renowned poet, novelist and actress best known for her book "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," has died at the age of 86, according to her literary agent, Helen Brann. Maya Angelou, a renowned poet, novelist and actress best known for her book "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," has died at the age of 86, according to her literary agent, Helen Brann.
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Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress
Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress
Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress
Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress
Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress
Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress
Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress
Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress
Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress
Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress
Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress
Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress
Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress
Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress
Maya Angelou: Poet, novelist and actress
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Country singer Martina McBride remembers her friend and mentor Maya Angelou
  • Angelou -- a poet, author, actress and activist -- died last week at 86
  • Celebrities from Oprah to Michelle Obama gathered Saturday for services in North Carolina

Editor's note: Martina McBride is a Grammy-nominated country singer and songwriter. You can follow her on Twitter @martinamcbride. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- As her friends, her family and the world celebrated Maya Angelou last weekend, I am struck by the imprint she left on me.

Maya Angelou was a shining example of how powerful and strong, good and giving, courageous and dignified, gracious and lovely a human being can be.

Martina McBride
Martina McBride

Her generosity of spirit is truly beautiful. Whether she was doing an interview with a stranger or talking to a friend, she was so giving of her spirit, always making whomever she was talking with feel important and lifted up.

Being around her made you want to be the best you could be, because she saw the best we could be. And she was like a bright and shining mirror. Because she saw the best in us, we could see it in ourselves. And once we saw it we had a responsibility to live it.

We were talking once about writing songs and why I had been hesitant for so long to really jump in and write my own songs. She said, "Sometimes it's not the fear of failing at something that holds us back. It's the fear of succeeding. Because we know that once we take that step and do whatever we've been holding back and succeed at it, the world will expect more of us."

So true.

With the death of Maya Angelou, the world has lost one of the premier female voices in African-American literature. Angelou belonged to a group of women writers who began to rise in prominence after the turn of the 20th century and who depicted in letters the lives of African-American and Afro-Caribbean women. Click through the gallery for examples of Angelou's contemporaries. With the death of Maya Angelou, the world has lost one of the premier female voices in African-American literature. Angelou belonged to a group of women writers who began to rise in prominence after the turn of the 20th century and who depicted in letters the lives of African-American and Afro-Caribbean women. Click through the gallery for examples of Angelou's contemporaries.
Maya Angelou's contemporaries
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Maya Angelou\'s contemporaries Maya Angelou's contemporaries
Maya Angelou: In her own words
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Maya Angelou: In her own words Maya Angelou: In her own words

Maya's wisdom and generosity of spirit inspired us all. What if she had hid that light? She was brave enough and open enough and strong enough to share her brilliant mind and spirit with the whole world. And we are all better for it.

She made no secret she was a fan of music and particularly a fan of country music. I was beyond honored that she said she liked my music and me, as a woman.

"Everything you sing," she once said, "sounds like it comes from your heart." How awesome is that, and to come from Maya Angelou!

Maya also shared her wisdom through her words. One of my favorite phrases of hers is: "Can't do is like don't care. Neither of them have a home."

But perhaps my very favorite words were the last words she spoke to me. "Come visit me in my home. I will cook for you."

Thank you, Maya. You forever changed my world -- our world, the whole world -- for the better.

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