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.
Not too long before she died, Marie and I sat on her couch and talked about a hunger she had to explain something to her boys. I listened carefully, and tried to make room for her to fret and stew a little, not because I like to leave people twisting in the wind, but because I believe all of us have within us our own answers, when we are given a loving ear and enough space to feel our way through that which is challenging.
What was challenging that day for Marie was that she was aware she was not always able to present the version of herself she most wanted to, for her family in general, and for her kids in particular. “The truth is, I am in a lot of pain, a lot of the time,” she had said. “It has this strange effect of leaving me feeling distracted, short, rushed. I want so badly to present this calm, centered, very focused version of myself to my kids. But sometimes the way things come out of me is not like that at all. Sometimes, despite my efforts, I show up as someone I’m not proud to be. My tone comes out all wrong. Words fly out of me and they aren’t anything close to the words I wanted to say.”
I know Marie had pain in her body, but sometimes I think the pain in her heart, about discrepancies like this, was the more challenging burden. We brainstormed together and eventually came up with a “script” for what she wanted to say to her boys, when the moment presented itself. She was so excited about the script she asked me if I would write it up and email it to her, which I did.
I think things heath-wise went downhill pretty quickly from there, and it is my sense that she never got to say to her boys what she wanted to say. I am a big fan of “waiting till the right moment presents itself,” but sometimes, it simply does not. That said, I remember so clearly the look on Marie’s face when we “found” this angle of approach–came up with the words she really wanted to say. That memory is with me now as I put these words forth, because it feels like one more important part of honoring Marie. And it feels like yet another part of her legacy that could potentially be valuable not just to two very beloved boys, but possibly to many others as well.
The script went like this, and her intention was to talk to each boy, separately, when the moment was right:
Have you ever taken a timed math test that was really hard? Like, you could do it, but it took all your concentration to get through it, stay focused, and keep dealing with the next math problem, and the next, while the clock was ticking? Well, for me, dealing with being sick sort of feels like, whatever else I am doing, I am also taking a really hard math test. My body is trying to get up, walk around, drive to places, be in conversations, but at the very same time some part of me is taking this really hard timed math test. I can do it, but it takes so much focus and concentration that sometimes what happens is, I sort of forget how to get the expression on my face to look the way I want it to, or I sort of forget to make sure the words coming out of my mouth are the most careful and thoughtful ones. Can you imagine what it might feel like to try to play on the playground, or go for a hike, or play a computer game, or have a conversation with a friend if you were also taking a hard math test at the very same time? That’s how it feels for me. Things can get all scrambled, up on the “surface” of me, because my body is trying to take a math test (or really: fight infection and deal with unplanned, very fast cell growth in other parts of my body) and also to do something else, which is to love you, and pay attention to you.
The truth is, my heart always always always knows what it wants to say to you, and how it wants to be with you. It makes me sad and embarrassed and frustrated sometimes that that stays stuck inside me, at the times when words come out wrong or when my expression doesn’t line up with how I deeply feel and how much I love you. But I want you to know something. No matter what kind of a math test I am taking, my heart only wants to say one thing to you, and my eyes only want to look one place when you are with me–right at you–and my tone only wants to be one kind of tone: the kind that is just exactly whatever you need: present, soft, caring, curious, filled with love.
What is always deep inside me is a love for you so powerful and deep, so soft and expansive. If my heart was talking all the time, if there were no math tests for me, or other distractions for the both of us, this is what my heart would say, over and over: I love you. I want you to feel safe, and held. I want you to know that I believe in you. That I see good things for you. You are a good, good person, and strong. You are wonderful and brave. You are such a bright light in my life and I deeply love who you are. I am right here for you, I am deep within you, and my love for you can’t really be stopped by anything.
In the days to come you might have to practice a new skill. You might have to learn how to close your eyes and feel my love, even when you can’t see it. Even if my face doesn’t have the expression it should, or the words coming out of my mouth are not the ones you most need to hear. If you close your eyes and listen, you will always always be able to hear my heart talking to yours, and telling you that you are precious to me and that I love you. Do you think you can learn to hear my heart talking, even when things on the surface don’t always line up to make that easy? I believe you can, and I believe that as you do, it will make all the difference.
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I share these words with Marie’s larger community not because I mean to take a private thing and make it public. But because a good number of you know Marie’s boys well and will have (or can create) continued opportunities to interact with them.
If you know Marie’s boys well – I invite you to consider that for a young boy to learn to do this–to see past the surface and feel the love of and connection to his mother, despite circumstances making that appear challenging–it takes practice, encouragement and support. When it comes to her boys, Marie needs her close community of inner-circle friends now more than ever.
If you have a sense of Marie’s boys – Think about her kids, and ask yourself if there is something you remember her sharing about her boys that they might benefit from knowing about. Many of you who knew her in person got to know her in ways that her boys will not get to know her unless we share those words-of-the-heart. Please respect the family’s privacy and consider sharing any messages to her boys here, as a comment at the bottom of this blog, where their dad can make a thoughtful call about what level of this information they can handle now, versus later.
If you didn’t know Marie except through these pages – For the many, many of you who never had the opportunity to meet Marie in person, but loved her all the same, think about a child in your own life who might benefit from hearing words such as the ones scripted out above.
All of us are taking math tests on the inside from time to time – stewing over issues, battling colds or larger illnesses, finding the most connective parts of our hearts sealed away or pulled off into a distraction. I encourage you to find the words. The perfect moments don’t always present themselves. But there is no more perfect moment, in terms of opening your heart and daring to say what you most deeply feel, than this sacred, essential moment now.
~Anna Huckabee Tull