She had faith and strength which shone through her writing and comforted the soul. She tackled topics such as cryogenics and disease and death and acceptance in a way few can. When I felt hopeless or angry or just plain fed up, I read her books and they made me feel new and whole.
One of my favorite passages from A Ring of Endless Light : "Prayer was never meant to be magic." "Then why do we bother with it?" " Because it's an act of love."
She strung together poetry and math and science and music in new ways. It gave me a greater appreciation for them all. I learned about mitochondria and farandolae and seraphim and leukemia and dolphins because of her writings.
I met her once at a book signing she had with her daughter. They complied a book of poetry and photographs entitled Mothers & Daughters. Her daughter was the photographer. They had a half hour of Q&A before the signing. She spoke eloquently and the warmth and compassion I'd seen in her writing was simply part of her. She was quick to smile and laugh and seemed to be so comfortable in her own skin.
Standing in line, waiting for her autograph, it hit me. I was about to meet a woman who had changed my life without even knowing my name. She was everything I'd expected her to be and so few are. I began to cry. My friend who had come with me was confused and concerned. I was crying too hard to explain and didn't have the words to tell her what I was feeling.
I came to the front of the line too choked up to talk easily. She smiled at me with concern in her eyes and asked my name to write it in the book. I told her and she wrote on the title page and handed the book back to me. She reached out and put her hand over mine and said "God bless you, Kristen." and smiled at me. I think I remembered saying thank you before I left. My cheeks were burning with embarrassment and my heart was overflowing.
She passed a few years later. I cried then as well. I will always remember her as the woman who taught me how powerful words can be. They change lives and minds and hearts. I hope in what comes next that we can meet again and I can sit and talk with her about her stories and how they helped me and countless others.
Madeleine L'Engle (November 29, 1918 – September 6, 2007) May she rest in peace.