For any who have not yet heard, I am saddened to share the news that Marie Colantoni Pechet passed away on December 7. She died at home, with her family, after breaking all kinds of standards by living not just eighteen months, as her doctors predicted, but nine years after her diagnosis of cancer.
My name is Anna Huckabee Tull. Several years ago, Marie brought up this incredible question: Would I be willing to write her Final Blog Post? I had never heard of such an idea, but I knew in the moment she said it that this is exactly what I would do.
On Thanksgiving–that holiday where we pause to consider all the good that surrounds us and all that we are thankful for–I received the following note from Marie. I was hustling through the London airport, but the whole world seemed to come to a halt when I got it. Something in me ripped and then rippled. I could feel, just as Marie could, that the time for some kind of transformation was drawing near.
I hope you are having a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. This message is to read AFTER the holiday! I’m just writing it today because I have a chance to.
These past couple months and in particular the past week has been really difficult. It’s prompted good conversation between Tiron and me and forced me to think through a lot of things in more detail than I could before.
So, I wanted to circle back to you about an offer you made long ago, and see if it still holds and if you are up for this.
Should something happen to me, I would love for you to write out a final blog post. It can be ANYTHING YOU WANT TO WRITE. I know that I won’t write a final post but I do feel that things should come to close in some way.
It can be short, long, about me, about you, a poem, an announcement….really, anything is fine by me. It can even be more than one. I trust you with this if you are up for it.
I sat down with tears brimming–with my whole being brimming. I wrote her to tell her how incredible it felt to be able to do this for her, for myself, and for all of you, the community that has carried and been carried by her through these challenging and also uniquely beautiful years of her life.
Back in the states, I went to see Marie at her house. She was very thin. She was struggling with the side effects of some of the pain medications, and struggling too with the news that her body was considered too weak at the moment for chemo. But all that aside, there she was! Up and about, looking right into my eyes, coordinating dinner plans with her visiting parents, inviting her son Aiden (13) to show me a gift he had given her a few years ago that had absolutely blown her away. “I really nailed it with this gift,” he said, triumphantly. “He really did,” she said.
It reminded me of my previous visit, a few months earlier. I had showed up, guitar in hand, and played a few songs for Marie, her visiting parents and her other son Julian (10). He had listened so attentively while I strummed and sang, wrapped in his mother’s arms. And then he couldn’t resist showing me his shiny new electric guitar. I watched him beaming away, strumming these fabulous power chords: ryawwww! ryawww! ryawww! He was standing right in the exact same space that a year before had held an absolutely GIGANTIC set of gymnastics bars–taking over just about the whole entire family room, because that was his passion at the time. That was Marie–ever oriented toward the light in her boys’ eyes. What makes them feel alive and free? Whatever it is let’s follow it, and see where it leads us!
Now she is gone. How can this be? I want to hear the next thing she has to say. I want to read her next blog post. I want to shoot off an email and marvel at the way she answers back, so quickly, in a manner that leaves me feeling connected.
Now I have to dig deeper within myself to find and feel that connection. But every time I close my eyes, there it is. Just right there, in the exact same spot my love for her resides, taking over just about my whole entire heart!
Marie said that things should “come to close in some way.” Which, I think, was very “Marie” of her. She was all about options, avenues, and possibilities. “Thanks for the offer,” she had said to me, in closing her Thanksgiving note. “And if it no longer feels right in your gut, know that I appreciate it all the same.”
I will most certainly do this for her, and for all of us. But Marie was not about closing. Marie was about opening.
Marie was about opening so much that one of the songs she asked me to play at her memorial service this past weekend was one she and I had composed together specifically for that occasion–her message to herself and everyone else going forth. Its name? “The Days of Your Opening.”
So, in one of our final get-togethers, I told Marie my idea. “What if I didn’t write just one blog post?” I asked her. “What if I wrote one each month, in that first year we are all moving forward without you? What if each month I chose a different topic–something about you that I think is precious, or sacred, or hilarious, or poignant–and shared it with everyone who wants to come along for the ride?”
Marie liked the idea. She gave me her blessing to do exactly that. It was not until today, as I was piecing together this blog post–not a FINAL blog post after all, but a Phoenix of a One-Year Blog Series–that I realized this great idea I had was possibly not entirely my own idea after all. I looked closer at that Thanksgiving email an there it was. About the Final Blog Post she had said: “It can even be more than one. I trust you with this.”
So today I invite you on a journey with me–a monthly post, for one year, to honor a woman, mother, sister, daughter, wife, spiritualist, norm-exceeder, memorial-service-church-packer, a bright light, and an amazing, unique friend who touched so many of us so deeply, in so many ways.
I have so much more I want to tell you. I want to show you and explain about the final Facebook post I did for her last week, that went viral and got re-posted by our local NPR station, along with a retrospective of all her writings for the Common Health Blog. I want to share her eulogy and the highlights of her incredibly moving funeral mass. I want to send you the two songs–and the story of the two songs–that she and I created together specifically for her journey and her funeral. I want to tell you what I know in my heart, and remember from my eight years of loving and being loved by Marie. I want to recognize that “Adventures in Spiritual Living” is an idea that doesn’t have to die. As Marie would say, “Whatever it is, let’s follow it and see where it leads us!”
So: will you meet me here, next month? I want to spend a year honoring our shared friend. Marie was teaching us to keep looking for the quirky little signs, everywhere: that life is calling to us, that goodness is right here, and that the adventure is within and around us all.
I can’t believe she is gone. I want to wrap my arms around her and tell her everything is going to be okay, keep following your heart, keep speaking your truth. But it seems that now she is the one who is saying this to me.
Perhaps I can’t believe she is gone because, in a way, she isn’t. She is alive in each one of us. She’s right here, offering a trail for us to follow. And I, for one, am hungry to see where it leads us. Perhaps you would like to come along. I think Marie and I both would love it if you did.
Anna Huckabee Tull
PS: To receive notifications of future Adventures in Spiritual Living Blogs posted in honor of Marie from Anna, please be sure to add AnnaHuckabeeTull@comcast.net to your “accepted email senders” list or mark it as “not junk.”