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.
I was lucky enough to be with Marie on what I consider to be her “last good day.” I wasn’t anticipating that it would be the last time I would see her. And I wasn’t in any way anticipating the thing that happened that day when we were together.
I had visited her just a few days earlier, on a Thursday afternoon. She was thin but seemed pretty similar to how she had seemed on my other recent visits. However, on Saturday she summoned me back with no explanation and some urgency – unusual for her.
At her house was her close friend Julie, and Mickey, the cantor she had carefully chosen years before, for singing the Requiem songs for the funeral she knew would one day occur.
She had gathered us together to finalize the plans for it right now. Gulp.
The three of us were new to each other, meeting on this day for the first time. We kept ourselves focused on the specifics of what Marie wanted for the ceremony, both because we were aware she had not eaten much lately and was low on energy, so we’d have to efficiently cover the ground she seemed to want to cover, and also because it seemed easier to focus on concrete decisions like songs and speakers and order of service than the immensity of what we were pondering: Marie. Gone.
But as we sat there together taking notes and making plans, I found myself overtaken by an awareness – the kind that comes from someplace far beyond any one person or any four people sitting in a room. Feeling a little strange about doing so, but pushing ahead nonetheless, I found myself speaking up and interrupting the proceedings.
I suggested that we stop what we were doing.
I suggested that we all hold hands and close our eyes and stop talking for a moment. I suggested we take a few breaths together. I said I thought, from within that new silence, I might have something to say (although in truth, in just exactly that moment, I had no idea what that something might be). I suggested that maybe one or all three of the others might (or might not) also feel moved to share something as well.
Everyone looked to Marie, and she did something very typical of Marie – something I had seen many times before, but had never fully understood. In my observation, whenever I suggested to Marie that there was something special about her – that she was doing an incredible job of Mom-ing under difficult circumstances, or that she was a powerful writer who was reaching people on very deep levels, or that she was a brave and wise woman, for example – she would get this kind of stiff, Teflon-looking expression on her face and say, simply, “Okay…”
Almost sort of like, Well, you say so and I’m not quite sure if I can let that in, but I’m bracing myself to give it a shot.
The look seemed, to me, tentative, uncertain, perhaps even embarrassed. “Okay…” she would say, as I shared something which seemed particularly deep or profound or honoring of her. I asked her about it once, although it tuns out she was unaware of it. In fact, after I described to her how I experienced it and what it looked like when she did that, she responded to me by saying simply, “Okay…” And then we both sort of laughed.
I never did find out what that was about. Fascinating to see in someone who reached so deeply within herself in writing and touched others so deeply as well. At any rate, I saw her do something like this on this last day, as I suggested we hold hands. “Okay…” she said, and I was left wondering, a little bit, Am I pushing my own agenda on her? Should I let go of this idea? But she held out her hand, and she closed her eyes just as did we all. I took a deep breath, we sat in the silence, and then, from out of that silence, I opened my mouth, hoping against hope that some helpful words would come forward.
I started saying whatever came to me. And what came out of me was…so…expansive.
The words felt brave. Loving. Fully present. Healing. I experienced a powerful feeling, as I got out of my head and opened my heart in the presence of this dear and special friend and these carefully selected others, and spoke. I found myself to be deeply centered. I felt a sweet, reassuring kind of flow bubbling up through my words as they left my mouth.
Wow! Where is this coming from?
Then, in turn, with our hands connecting and our eyes closed, with the gentle sound of Marie’s children talking with one another in the background, each one spoke. Julie. Then Mickey. Then a much longer silence.
And then Marie spoke.
Each time one of us was sharing, I felt my heart opening wider and wider. (Just like the lyrics of Marie’s song: Widen who you are…to see the love that surrounds you…widen who you are until the love in you astounds you...) It seemed there was a warmth and a connective sweetness unfolding, wrapping around us, and holding the four of us together. The words we were each saying felt like they were somehow creating a huge, expansive opening all around and within us, in some powerful, beautiful, centering, reassuring way.
Do you want to know the really strange thing? I literally cannot remember one single word that any of the four of us uttered as we sat there in that circle. I have thought and thought, again and again, about what we might have said. And every single time I come up with a complete blank.
But honestly, it’s a warm, beautiful, no-words-needed kind of blank.
I read once that 90% of communication is nonverbal. That to really connect with others in this life you must learn to hear not the words they are saying, but the message of their heart situated beneath those words. In that moment, as we held hands together in a kind of organic and natural communion, what was happening between us seemed to be 100% a message of the heart.
When we opened our eyes, there were tears on each of our faces. Something had shifted, expanded, released, cleared.
That afternoon, after we left, I learned that Marie lay down on the couch. She never really got up again.
* * * * *
I am reminded on this day, thinking back on that event, of how deeply valuable it is – that little feeling that comes up inside of each of us from time to time: I have a notion about what we should try next. But it feels awkward. Intrusive. Perhaps I shouldn’t… Maybe I’ll just keep it to myself…
I am reminded of how powerful it can be to simply open your mouth, anyway, despite the trepidation and say, “I want to interrupt for a moment. I have a different way to go with this. Are you open to that?”
And I am reminded how powerful it can be, too, if you are being presented with a new idea, a new notion, a new direction, even if you feel stiff inside, or resistant, or embarrassed or Teflon-ish about it, to make that one extra stretch and dare to say, “Okay…”
I like the idea of imagining Marie on that couch, hours after we left, facing the biggest question of all. Are you ready to go? Is it time?
I like the idea of her turning toward it it, feeling the resistance, perhaps, to leaving this beautiful place, uncertain about exactly what would be next, but finding it within herself to say, one last time: “Okay…”
~Anna Huckabee Tull