Small Miracle

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.

The other day, something happened to me that was just exactly the kind of small miracle Marie was always pointing out to those of us who lovingly followed her blog. The serendipity of it was amazing. And the really incredible part is, I believe, in its own unique way, that this little bit of wonderment came through Marie. Or at least, most certainly, directly because of her.

The story, like all good stories, has three parts: something wonderful, something hard and overwhelming, and then something wonderful, just in the nick of time!

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Unfinished Business

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.

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My final hours with Marie

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. Continue reading

Marie’s Funeral (Part 2)


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.

Here we are, two months after Marie’s passing, and I find myself looking out at the snow outside my window this evening and remembering what turned out to be my favorite part of her memorial service this past December: the way it ended. So I want to tell you about that.

I shared last month that eight years ago, when she first got her diagnosis, Marie had worked with me to write two songs. The first was From the Inside. It came out as a deep and soulful journey of a song, tracking Marie’s shift from feeling “all alone” to feeling “all one” as she grappled with her diagnosis and, on an even deeper level, her fundamental wellness.

But there was also a second song. It didn’t “show up from out of nowhere” like From the Inside did. It was rather specifically conjured and requested by Marie. “I want something that sounds like me, feels like me, but helps me feel more alive right now,” she had said.

The song The Days of Your Opening practically wrote itself. I came flying over to Marie’s house when it was “hot off the press” to play it for her on my guitar. Her face lit up. She didn’t want to change a word of it. Neither did I.

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Marie’s Funeral


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.

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Final post

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.

Hi Anna,

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
December, 2016

PS:  To receive notifications of future Adventures in Spiritual Living Blogs posted in honor of Marie from Anna, please be sure to add to your “accepted email senders” list or mark it as “not junk.”

Starting new chemo on Tuesday

Well, last week was a little draining. A trip to the ER on Sunday, a day surgery on Thursday, and in between, the election.

But wait, there’s more! I start a new chemo on Tuesday (FOLFOX, for those familiar). Not my favorite chemo cocktail but here’s hoping that it works. I’ve had four weeks off chemo, which usually would be refreshing but this time was filled with hospital visits, so didn’t feel so much like a holiday. We begin again!

Thank you so much for your prayers and positive thoughts last week. I know it pulled me through. And thank you for your continued support.

Love and blessings,

Weekend health update

Last weekend, we suddenly had the opportunity to take a trip I’ve dreamed about for the past 10 years. We were scheduled to leave on Saturday morning.

On Friday night before we were to leave, I couldn’t sleep. I had so much pressure in my back that I felt like gas could come out of my left kidney.

Eventually I put my hand on my back and found that my shirt was soaked. The bandage around the tubes was soaked. That can’t be good. It was 1:30 a.m. and I reluctantly woke my husband.

We cleaned the area and replaced the bandage. My husband explained that the kidney was unable to empty via the stent. The contents had to go somewhere, so they filled the tubes in my back. Once the tubes filled, the kidney kept emptying but overflowing out of the holes in my back.

Since this was coming out of the tubes, we hooked the tubes to the bag. Ugh. I was really looking forward to getting my big girl stent and getting rid of these tubes. Now I not only had the tubes, but a longer tube attached to them and a bag.

I didn’t want to wear yet another bag. And with about six hours to go until we left for our trip, I wasn’t comfortable traveling. I didn’t know how often I needed to empty this bag, whether there would be upcoming complications, or even how to dress to hide the contraption.

We decided that my husband and one of the boys would do the trip, and I would stay home with the other. As they travelled west, I sat around in my bathrobe all day feeling sorry for myself.

On Sunday, I pulled myself together and tried to get dressed.

At the same time, another situation required my attention. Although the bag for my left kidney was filling regularly, my right kidney still emptied via my bladder. However, I hadn’t emptied my bladder all Saturday and most of the day on Sunday. I tried, but nothing.

After calling three different doctors, I decided to go to the ER.

Once there, they catheterized me and at some point during this process, the urologist suggested that they might send me home WITH THE CATHETER! Suddenly, the nephrostomy bag didn’t seem a such a big deal. Perspective, huh?

Thankfully, they removed the catheter before I left, and they alerted the various doctors that I needed to see later that week.

I did a phone check-in with my primary care doctor. (Love her.)

I saw the urologist on Tuesday – no real problems they could find.

And on Friday, tomorrow, I have a procedure at 6:30 a.m. to see what is going on with the stent. What they find determines our next steps.

So, more conscious sedation. But hopefully more answers as well.

I would LOVE any prayers that this is all simple and straightforward and that I can get my big-girl J-J stent! Thank you.

I hope that your weekend was fun and exciting in positive ways!

Love and blessings,

Someone pointed out that I make this all sound so easy, so just to add some dimension:

  • I did have to find someone to take care of our son before I left for the ER.
  • This time, I texted around to find a ride to the ER rather than take an Uber.
  • Once at the ER, two friends came to visit. But that environment is a harsh and draining place and definitely took a toll on one of them who stayed for the long haul. I get it.
  • On Tuesday, my husband cancelled all his plans until we heard what time the follow-up doctor could squeeze me into their schedule, so that he could go with me.

My new goal is to have one full week without a single visit to the hospital!

Procedure on Tuesday morning

Thanks again for all your support, in so many ways. This whole ride has been crazy lately, between the medical issues and making sure the kids have a good start to school, we really appreciate all the support in whatever form it takes.

So, to ask for MORE…

I have a “procedure” on Tuesday morning to get a nephrostomy. Please send prayers and positive thoughts that this goes smoothly and successfully AND that I am not super depressed afterwards! As much as I want to believe and trust that this will be in for only two weeks, the interventional radiologist firmly planted in my psyche the thought that this might be permanent. That thought creeps out from the dark recesses of my mind at the most inopportune times.

Regardless, we can only move forward. It is sort of surreal to go about daily life knowing that on Tuesday, I have little clue how my life will change. I know that on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I will have a visiting nurse to help me with all this. That alone makes me feel like there will be an adjustment. I talked with another nurse on Friday – he was super nice but when I asked how to live with this on a daily basis – how to sleep and drive and keep myself clean – he actually said that I will have to “MacGyver my way through this.” I have never been good at MacGyvering anything. Besides, it is crazy, to me, that they have done so many of these yet cannot tell you how to live with it.

Looking beyond this makes me crazy too. I have something every week for the next 2+ months:

  • Procedure (to place nephrostomy)
  • Chemo
  • Procedure (to put in the stent)
  • Chemo
  • CT scan
  • Chemo
  • Procedure (in case first time the stent doesn’t work)
  • Chemo
  • Procedure (to remove nephrostomy tube)
  • Chemo

I cannot process all that, so I am focused on today. I have been doing what I can with the boys, attended a class dinner with my husband, visited with friends, took care of one child who wasn’t feeling well enough to attend school.

In the spirit of making the best of things, I woke up Saturday morning and thought, instead of looking at this as “no more showers for awhile”* I should look at it as “I really appreciate the next four days of showers.”

So I got out of bed, turned on the shower, and….lukewarm water. I knew that meant there wasn’t much left so I took a quick and not fully satisfying shower, then learned our heating system was broken. Ironic. (Thanks to my husband, it got fixed that very day.)

Right now, I am feeling good and back to being grateful for my life, even with all my external parts, and being nervous about things like the Presidential debates and the upcoming election.

Thank you for your prayers and positive vibes on Tuesday morning. I head into Brigham and Women’s at 6:30 a.m. Eastern U.S. time. And I pray my thanks for you in my life.


*I am not allowed to bathe, swim or shower for as long as I have this thing in. Only spongebaths. I asked what I should do if I sweat. The nurse laughed and said I won’t be exerting myself enough to sweat. Obviously he has not gone through menopause.

Next chapter in the Kidney Stent Story

Thank you so much for your support. I know that I cannot do it without it. Even prayer is failing me lately.

Want to hear the latest? A quick recap: I needed kidney stents. The urologist was able to put one in, but not the other. MY UNDERSTANDING was that I had to see an interventional radiologist so that he or she could go through my back, through the kidney, and place the stent into the ureter. More complicated, but fine.

My oncologist felt it should be done as soon as possible, which would be the week of Sept 26. I was scheduled to go to John of God the week of Sept 26 so I needed to cancel that, which bummed me out. And, given my chemo schedule, that meant that I would meet the interventional radiologist this week, chemo next week, and procedure the week after that. A crappy series of events, but I’ve done harder things.

Their recommended interventional radiologist was not available on that timeline, so I booked with another. Yes, you can see a bad moon a-risin’!

I showed up for my appointment and someone took vitals and left. Fine. A nurse practitioner arrived with a stack of papers that it looked like she would give me at the end of the visit. Fine. She started to talk about this tube in my back. I knew they might do this as a temporary measure while the stent healed. Fine.

But then she started talking about coming in every three months to have the tube replaced and having a home health aide come to my home every week or maybe every few days in between. My head started spinning.

“How long will I need this? I thought it was just temporary until the stent healed.”

“Everyone needs it a different amount of time.” She looked at me sideways.

“But THREE MONTHS? How long does it take the stent to heal?”

Ignoring my question about the stent, she added, “And you need the home health aide. Don’t cancel that.”

I don’t mind a home health aide as a temporary thing. I relied on them to get used to the idea of having a colostomy bag and learning how to care for myself and it. But, despite all these weird things on my body (mastectomy, colostomy bag, tumor coming out of my belly button, a fistula to manage, and a tube coming out of my chest every other week for chemo, to name a few), I kind of like having a place, like my own home, where I can pretend to be a normal person.

Having a home health aide come to my home destroys my little mythical world. Not only that, it is inconvenient. You have to plan your day around their arrival. They are sometimes late. They take your blood pressure, temperature, oxygen – in other words, they don’t just come in, change the dressing and leave. They have a whole intrusive process. And there is a different person every time, so, no relationship. Plus, if I need home health care, I wonder if I will be so sick that I can’t get my butt out of my house and to a medical facility.

But the biggest thing is, a health care worker marching into my house makes my home feel like a treatment area. I hate that.

My more immediate issue, though, was that I felt like the nurse was talking about a different procedure than I expected. She never mentioned a stent. Only going on and on about the nephrostomy tube or bag or whatever.

Since she couldn’t seem to talk about my topic, I thought I would ask her questions about her topic.

How do I sleep with this? How do I dress? How do I live with this? What does it look like? Does it require taping anything to my body? Can I sit back in a seat? Can I lie on my back for acupuncture?

“You cannot sleep on your back because the tube is sticking out of there. The bag, at all times, needs to be below your kidney, so you need to place it before you go to sleep and don’t move around. You will learn as you go,” she said with a confident smile. “Some of those answers are in these papers.”

I get to read about it after I leave? When I can’t ask follow-up questions I guess. And learn as I go? Am I the first person to deal with this?

I’m much better dealing with these life changes if I have preparation. I’ve had enough of those to know.

“I’ll get the doctor,” she said, apparently done with her part of the conversation.

About 10 minutes later, she returned with the doctor. He greeted me pleasantly and I was hopeful. Fool that I am.

He, too, focuses his little speech on a nephrostomy, and I went along with it, following his lead on the topic, asking questions about the procedure and the follow-up.

In retrospect, I had hoped that he would say, “We are putting in a stent, but first we have to do a nephrostomy.” And then go on to describe the multi-step process, culminating in my having my body back without tubes.

But he stays focused on the nephrostomy and never mentions a stent. Hmmm. So I ask him.

“I thought I was getting a stent.”

“This will be much easier. Trust me.”

Oooh. I have never been good with phrases like “trust me.” And after enduring this election year, I cringe hearing it. And, this will be much easier? For whom?

There was so much going on that I didn’t know where to start. Focus on facts, I thought. Maybe something tangible. I studied the doctor’s physical characteristics. He was shorter than me, with dark hair and lamb chop sideburns. He had a tiny diamond earring in his left ear and a wedding band on his left hand.

I took a deep breath and thought, someone, at some point, loved him enough to marry him. They think he is a good guy. Maybe he is a good guy. He means well. Maybe he just is bad at communication.

I really should have brought someone with me.

I decided to take control of the conversation. These are some snippets of the conversation as I remember them:

Me: I thought I was going to get a stent. That you were going through the kidney to put in a stent.
Him: Well, if you really want me to, I can try.

What? I thought. If I really want him to? I thought that was the program….

Me: If I can, I want the stent.
Him: Let’s play Let’s Make a Deal. You want to play Let’s Make a Deal? I can do that.

Okay, what is up with all that? I don’t want him to place the stent as a “favor” to me. I don’t want to try and place a stent if it is going to screw up my body even more. I don’t want to try if it means a useless procedure. I DO want someone to say “It is likely that I can do this” or “Probability is low because…” I want someone to be on my side, to understand how huge this is for me.

And seriously, “Let’s Make a Deal”? Once, okay, weird, but he used it multiple times throughout our conversation.

Here is another….

Me: I’m focused on quality of life. What will this be like to live with?
Him, smiling: This will improve your quality of life.


I’m thinking about the hassle it will be to shower, as the bandage (around the site and is not a temporary thing) cannot get wet. I have to wrap myself in Saran Wrap to shower, and make it quick. I can never again take a bath or go in a swimming pool or the ocean.

I’m thinking about sleeping with tubes and drainage bags and getting out of bed in the middle of the night to pee and forgetting to grab all the bags I need to and having one detach. And what about if I am drugged, which doesn’t happen often but happens often enough.

This was crazy. I started crying, and then I started sobbing. He gave me a consent paper to sign, and a phone number to call to set up the procedure. He and the nurse left the room. And then I left.

Okay, here is another weird thing. I am IN THE OFFICE. With a waiting room and staff and check out people. And the phone number they gave me to call to set up the appointment was THE OFFICE NUMBER. But they want you to call to set up the appointment.

I left the office, took the elevator down one floor, and called the number to sign up for a procedure day. And then I raced out of the hospital.

I paid for parking, found my car, and started sobbing again. I didn’t know what to do, so I frantically made phone calls, including to my oncologist’s office and the social worker, leaving messages for everyone I could think of.

I had five minutes (after paying for parking) to leave the garage, so I started driving. It’s amazing that I made it home. I was heaving sobs as I drove while I talked with my friend Julie on the phone, who alternately asked me to pull over and tried to keep me calm when I insisted on driving.

When I arrived home, our dog excitedly came to my car and jumped in and on my lap. He is rarely outside and he never sits on my lap, so I took this as a sign that somehow, I would be supported.

People started calling me back, and I either didn’t answer or I talked their ear off. The social worker gave me some ideas, and the oncology nurse practitioner told me that he would contact my oncologist, who was in Australia.

I’m finally calming down. Still freaking out a bit, but at least I can speak clearly. My oncologist called me as soon as he landed at Logan and we discussed the option of switching doctors versus the timeline we set up. He promised to work on it over the weekend, which was above and beyond the call of duty. I feel like someone has my back. (Ha ha – especially since that is where the nephrostomy would go…)

I have so many parts outside my body that are supposed to be inside (and out of sight) that I’m starting to wonder if my body is turning itself inside out. I’m spending a lot of time appreciating my back, especially the fact that there is currently nothing hanging out of it. I wonder what life will be like. I’m noodling over the best way to explain this to the boys.

Thank you for helping to keep this all together. It really is unbelievable. But like everyone, we do what we need to do and continue moving forward. Deep breaths.

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”
– Pema Chodron

Love and blessings,