by Anna Huckabee Tull
Each month, for the first twelve months after Marie Pechet’s passing, I will carry her Blog forward, sharing about Marie in ways that I hope you will find meaningful, connective, and honoring of our shared friend.
On the morning of Marie’s funeral, snow fell and fell. The world was covered with a reverent, white sheen. It seemed fitting, somehow. Marie was constantly reminding all of us that it is possible to see more beauty on the branches and footpaths—both literal and metaphorical, on the trail-ways of our lives—whenever we remember to look.
There were practically no cars on the roads from Concord to Belmont. It was 8 AM on a Saturday and I was to be among the first to arrive, meeting up with my new friend Mickey who would be singing the requiem mass music with me. (Why is it that everyone I have met who loved Marie is someone I seem to immediately enjoy?) In the car, driving oh-so-carefully on those unplowed roads, the air thick with snowfall, I started to sing along with a recording of the song I would be performing in a few hours. I knew when I sang this song at the funeral I would need to find a way to do so without getting overcome with emotion. But for now, in the privacy of my car, I let my voice crack and stumble. I let tears disassemble me. I let myself do as Marie and I so often encouraged one another to do: dare to feel more.
The event was a surreal panorama. I was able to watch it all from up near the podium where my guitar and I were stationed. The church was gigantic: looming columns, aged dark wood, echoing high ceilings and stained glass windows on all sides.
Marie’s inner circle of family arrived while the church was still empty: little J-man (not so little now) running ahead in a bow tie; her older son A all dressed up and circling around the lectern, asking me if I would show him the Order of Service. I explained to him that just about every word of each song and prayer had been carefully selected by Marie. If you let yourself hear it, you can know she is talking to you, and to all of us, through these words she has chosen, I told him. He wondered aloud about whether or not he was going to cry during the service, and I thought again about the challenges of being a boy—of his wanting to experience his own inner strength, even on this most overwhelming of days that would surely go down as a permanent milestone in his young life.
Suddenly more and more people were pouring in, snow covered, making introductions, hugging one another in long, familiar, aching embraces. This was the community Marie was always reaching out to, daring to receive from, and speaking from the heart to. A hundred people were there. Then three. By the time the event got underway, the church was absolutely packed: five hundred or so, to my eye.
Her friend Julie read the Eulogy she had written, and each of us learned something new about some aspect of Marie’s journey. Collectively we rose and sat, sang and closed our eyes, taking in the words Marie had selected at each turn. Father Thomas felt like a friend. He spoke with fondness and familiarity about Marie. At one point he quipped, “Frankly, I was always a little surprised that Marie remained a Catholic.” Many laughed out loud. It broke a tension of sorts—a tension all of us missing her will likely feel forever, to some degree—to be able to laugh together for a moment about what a little renegade Marie was in her own way: bravely exploring alternative treatments, pushing the boundaries of tradition, but always in such an inviting, inclusive, encouraging way that it felt more like hope and openness than any kind of a challenge at all.
Finally it was time for a moment I had been anticipating in one way or another ever since the day I first met Marie, eight years earlier, when she reached out to me to ask if I could write a song for and with her. She wanted a song not about her cancer per se but about the way in which the cancer experience had cracked her open, oriented her toward a deep journey within herself, and a more sacred experience of the world around her. The song is called “From the Inside,” and although I have created over 250 songs with an incredible range of individuals over the past couple of decades, I have never created anything quite like this song before or since. I think you have to hear it to appreciate it fully and I hope you will give it a listen. I was deeply moved in writing it (after a very extensive interview with her), and Marie was deeply moved in hearing it for the first time, and the many subsequent times she listened to it. I think both of us always sort of knew it was for her funeral, though words were never put specifically out loud to that thought by either of us until the week before she died, when she summoned me to her home and made it clear that this was to be a centerpiece of the event, if I was willing to sing it.
I knew that I would. I had never performed it before—even though I perform original works frequently—largely because of its musical complexity (it is very layered). But I think it is also because I have always known that this song was only ever meant for one moment, and I was happy to wait as long as humanly possible for that moment to come.
Sitting there in the church as the procession of readings and hymns marched steadily toward that moment, I wanted to believe I was going to be able to pull it off without any technical glitches and, even more importantly, without bursting into tears with the sheer feeling of the loss of my dear friend.
But I needn’t have worried. Sacred moments have a way of taking care of themselves.
When I stood up there all alone to deliver “From the Inside,” I found myself filled with ease. I closed my eyes and opened my heart. Doing so is perhaps the simplest and most ancient formula on the planet, but it allowed something within me to shift, settle, and expand into the moment. And from there, I sang Marie’s song.
Looking out, I saw your faces—those of you who were present. And I knew this song would somehow eventually reach the oh-so-many of you who have written to me to let me know how sad you were to not be in a position to attend that day. I saw Marie’s mother, tears streaming down her face. I saw her father. I saw Tiron, his face bright and watching. I heard many of you sniffling, tearing up, and then holding a place in your heart to really take this in. I felt the room encouraging me, trusting me, and listening to the duet it felt like I was singing with Marie:
From the Inside
Marie Pechet and Anna Huckabee Tull
So many times,
So many signs along the road
So many ways to know
So many ways to go
But now the known is closing
I am surrounded by love
But I’m alone in these uncharted marshes
It’s not light, but it’s not darkness
And I call to me here
In the center of the storm
And I call to me here
Bruised and broken…open
All alone, all alone, all alone, all alone
(All one, all one, all one, all one…)
I was hiding on the inside, I was hiding on the inside
(I am rising from the inside, I am rising from the inside…)
I will stand inside myself
Oh, oh I
I am rising inside of me
From the Inside
Click here to read more about the story of this song: http://www.customcraftedsongs.com/listen/from-the-inside
Next month I will share a little more about the funeral experience, and specifically, about the closing song which Marie and I also created together.
Thank you for reading. I invite you to know in yet new ways that Marie’s presence in each of our lives was a gift—one that, if we choose to, we can continue to open.
~Anna Huckabee Tull