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.”
Dear Anna, what a powerful gift she offered you, and I for one am filled with gratitude that you said yes.
I met Marie in Brazil at John of God, years ago now, our first time there. She filled me with wonder and love as I got to know her, although actually we sort of already knew each other.
I live on the west coast but in our hearts we are just right there!! Marie teaches us so much about living life as best we can, she teaches us of love, compassion and connectedness. She is truly a seer of all that is possible beyond our material stressed out world!!
I am so excited to see where you take us on our year long journey together, and for the first time since she crossed over, I can feel her just right there!!!
Thank you and love to her family, so much love
It’s an honor to meet you! So glad you are coming along for the ride!
God’s speed Marie – big hug – Kevin
My heart lifted the moment I saw the notification of this post. I wondered how it came to be and felt blessed for one more opportunity to visit. I’m honored and grateful for your generous offer. I look forward to the journey.
Hooray! Me too!
I’m so glad you are doing this. I had just said to someone yesterday that I am waiting for a final blog from Marie explaining what happened medically that made her realize that the end was near, her feelings and outlook on it. Then today, a post from you. Thank you and I am looking forward to the future postings. Merry Christmas!
Sent from my iPhone
Thank you for caring, and coming along!
Dear Anna, I am grateful to you for taking on this monthly concept–should it be sustainable and fruitful for you–as I am grateful to Marie for fearlessly sharing where she was “at,” at any and all times. There are no guarantees, day over day, beyond the assurance that we each may offer something, perceive something, appreciate something. At calendar year end, one prepares for a perceived new year. Marie demonstrated that each day is new, every minute a boon. In recognition of the gift you gave her in assuring that the blog was not to conclude–at least not right away–I offer again sincere thanks and much love. What else is there? D
Indeed: thanks and love are two of the very best tickets for a fruitful journey!
Dear Anna, I am IN!! I think this is a wonderful way to celebrate a life well lived. Thanks so much for being our fearless leader. You, Julie and Mickey did such a wonderful job on Saturday capturing her love of life and people. Grateful.
Sending out love to all in Marie’s special village (esp you Anna!).
So glad you are HERE!!!!! xoxo
Dear Anna – what a wonderful post and tribute to an incredible woman. I look forward to reading your future posts! I will miss Marie always, on emotional and spiritual levels she was a very special friend, I’m sorry that I had to miss her funeral etc due to distance but I intended to be there in spirit when I saw the details…. All the best to you, what an incredible friend you are. -Tom Marsilje
Stay tuned! I will do my best to help you feel like you got to be at the funeral after all! Glad you are coming along for the ride!
Dear Anna, thank you so much for agreeing to write Marie’s blog. Marie’s passing has left a tremendous void in our lives. We will miss her so much. How like her to realize that we needed to hear from her one last time, or many more times. May God bless you for accepting Marie’s offer.
It’s a wonderful way to RISE to an occasion!!! 😉 I am grateful for the opportunity, and glad you are coming along.
I was so touched and moved to see your post this morning. I have been one of Marie’s friends (and neighbors) for years. I met her when she had just adopted Aidan and we had an instant connection. Sadly, because of the storm, I was unable to make the mass on Saturday. I kept feeling that there had to be one more post by Marie. She was so alive and so vibrant, so generous with her thoughts and accounts of her courageous journey, that it seems impossible to think that her voice will not be heard anymore. I think it is a wonderful idea to keep her voice and her memory alive through you.
Best wishes and thank you so much, Nayla Sahyoun
Thanks, Anna, for this lovely, touching continuation of Marie’s legacy. Thank you.
You are so welcome!!
Beautiful, Anna! I am so glad Marie had the courage to ask you originally and again in her final days. It’s a great idea to honor her by writing entries over the first year as we all struggle with this enormous loss. Thank you! Blessings, love and light to you.
I never met Marie. She is a friend of a friend. I have been following her blog for a couple of years, and through it, felt as if she were a close personal friend. I too am traveling the cancer journey, keep a blog, have young kids, and felt a connection to Marie. I often commented and sent my positive healing energy on her chemo or procedure days. The news of her death struck me hard, much harder than one would expect considering we’d never met, almost like the sadness one feels when a favourite celebrity dies; you felt like you knew them so it’s hurts. Her words were so beautifully scripted in this blog, and I am so pleased that you, Anna, will be continuing to blog about her. This “Final Post” was so touching, so wonderful, I’m still crying as I type. You two were lucky to have each other. Keep up your beautiful prose (and song writing!) and we’ll all remember a fabulous woman with fondness and love. Thank you.
I hope your own journey with cancer is inspired by hers. She was such a bright light and so good for us all!
I’m in Anna– and so grateful for your contribution to us all. I loved the two songs you and Marie composed and that you sang so beautifully. I’m hoping to hear them again through your continuation of Marie’s blog. I too miss her words, her insights, her humor, her wonderment at all things great and small, and the way in which her optimism and gratefulness taught me so much each time I read her posts. Thank you for being there for Marie– and all of us who cherish her memory–in this unique and special way!
Thank you for your kind words. I am so glad you love the songs! I will be sharing them in the next post!
We didn’t meet at the memorial service, but I enjoyed your songs. When I heard the “Days of your Opening,” I both smiled and cried, since it was so Marie! I was lucky enough to know Marie for more than 25 years. We were grad students together at Carnegie Mellon, and stayed close through the years with periodic trips to Kripalu with a group of friends. Thank you for doing this to help me keep Marie present in my thoughts.
So glad you are along for the ride! And I too love the songs. “Days” is one of my most requested ones in concert, and happily Marie attended many shows where I performed it!
Marie’s ability to see the extraordinary in the ordinary continues to inspire me. It was like she was a human dowsing rod for joy. Who else could end a memorial mass with an honest-to-goodness party? I am so grateful for your willingness to echo and amplify the best of Marie in the coming months. Did I mention I am IN?
I so appreciate you taking on this role to help us deal with our grief. I met Marie in 1980 and remember immediately liking her, classifying her internally in my mind as brilliant yet ditzy. I’d have never guessed then how much this lovely young girl would someday teach me about love and life. Over the last several years, my affection for Marie has deepened to what is an inexplicable love. She will always be my inspiration to both do and be better, whispering her advice for finding only the positive in even the most negative of situations. Like Marie, you are a gifted writer, and I look forward to reading your posts and seeing even more sides of our wonderous Marie.
Thank you Anna! I had not met Marie, but followed her blog. I was worried recently when she had not posted and feel an incredible loss. I will be following along. All of Marie’s family and friends continue to be in my prayers
So glad you will be following along!!! I am sure Marie would love knowing that!
Thank you Anna for showing up so generously to create this space where we who love and learn from Marie will continue to travel with her and with each other.
I met Marie through my dear friend Shira when they were both having treatment at Dana Farber. They had struck up an email connection through another friend, but had yet to meet. One day we realized that Marie was scheduled for a scan just a couple of hours after Shira. Before leaving that day, Shira and I drew a little love letter for Marie on the back of a piece of recycled paper and left it with the nurses to deliver. It was a bit audacious— a love letter to someone we’d never met… but how right we were!! Little did we know how much we would come to love and admire Marie in the coming years. How deeply Shira and Marie would connect, how much we would feel held, and seen in light of Marie’s radiance, wise heart and honest voice.
My love to Marie , Shira, Gaye , Annette, Tricia, Terri and all the other soul sisters who faced cancer together and are reunited on the other side. What a sister circle that must be!!
I LOVE this story! Marie seemed to INVITE serendipity! So glad you will be joining in as we go forward here. xoxo
Anna, What an incredible gift you are! And what an honor that Marie entrusted you to help us all deal with her passing. I feel so blessed – and yes this is so like Marie – to know that we all would have such a void that we would need someone to lead us through it. I am here,
willing and waiting to be embraced by our circle of friends. Love, Mg
Thank you for this beautiful post, so much in the true spirit of Marie. And thank you for the wonderful music at Marie’s service. I very much look forward to reading your monthly posts and keeping Marie, her family and her amazing community in my heart and mind through the next year and beyond.
With deep gratitude for your generosity in stepping in to this role,
I was just singing the song by Leonard Cohen called ‘ Marie ‘ this am to my daughter.
Lovely. Invitation accepted. I will meet you here next month!
Anna, this is so wonderful. Like you, I feel like Marie is still alive in so many of us. On the day she died, I felt a nudge from her pushing me to do something really important that I’d been putting off. I somehow knew it was from her even if I couldn’t explain it and I found out later that she had passed that morning. For me, the best way to honor Marie is to live as wholeheartedly as she did and to notice the miracles right in front of us everyday. She was so good at that. I’m so glad you’re doing this and I can’t wait to read what you share! ❤
Reblogged this on Mended Musings and commented:
I wanted to write a post to honor my friend Marie but I haven’t been able to put together the words to say how much she meant to me and so many others. Thankfully, her friend Anna has found a beautiful way to honor her on Marie’s blog, Adventures in Spiritual Living.
Anna count me in! I’ve been struggling with what I can do to honor her memory over the next 12 months. I think through your posts the answer may come to me. In our family an angel is placed on our Christmas tree every year for each person that we have loved and lost so we remember them aways. Marie’s has already been added to our tree this year, I’m still incredible sad. I’m looking forward to being part of this with you.
Thank you for writing Anna. Looking forward to all you have to share.
Heck yes I am in! Thank you for keeping her spirit alive in this way, Anna. Look forward to staying connected.
Best to you
Found you Anna and Marie’s journey. Will follow your posts. Had colonoscopy on Nov. 7, 2016. Had 3 pre-cancer Adenomas removed. Will repeat colonoscopy as recommended in 3 years. Knew something was not right when I did stool test, then not surprised with results found and scheduled for colonoscopy. 1st colonoscopy was in 2002. This year MD said I waited too long for 2nd one in 2016. I’m sure finding Marie’s blog is a cautionary tale for me. Thank you for continuing her blog.
My heart goes out to her family, friends and yourself. she was a great woman and an inspiration to people all over the world. She showed great courage not only with facing cancer head on everyday, but also going about her life, travelling and then sharing her life with us all. She loved her family very much and they meant everything to her. She had great faith in God and his angels and you could see that from her posts. It was an honor to have connected with her. God bless Ann xx
Thank you, Anna. xoxo
Hi. I posted a comment about a week ago on here to pay my respects for Marie, but I cannot find it?
Oh my. Met Marie a few years back when I read one of her blog posts and was blown away by her enormous courage and generosity of spirit. Wrote her just to let her know and she wrote back. We wound up exchanging perspectives on spirituality and eventually my wife and I, together with our then-infant son, went to visit — staying at Marie’s home for a few days. We introduced her to our spiritual teacher, who was in Boston for a visit.
Ever since, I’ve written her occasionally to find out how she was doing and each time she reported doing well. I figured after a time that she was just immune to death. But of course no one is. This time, I had a funny feeling so I googled her name and saw the obituary. Actually started thinking of her about a month ago, which must have been pretty close to when she passed.
I’m so sorry, especially for her boys, Aiden and Julian, and of course for Tiron and the rest of her family. I’m hopeful for Marie, though, that she’s in a better place and I’m glad the boys made it to 10 and 13 before they lost her. Hard though it is to lose one’s mom as a child, I think it would have been exponentially harder if they had been 3 and 6.
What a lovely person Marie was, truly. Love and prayers to her for safe passage home and to her family and friends, for healing and peace. May God bless you all!