Say His Name
I want to hear people say his name, “Pete. Pete Huttlinger.” The idea of not hearing it out loud ever again is upsetting. I see it online in Facebook posts, but reading it isn’t the same as hearing it. I used to hear it a lot as he was introduced to come on stage, but that isn’t going to happen anymore.
In addition to Pete’s concert performances, he and I often traveled to different cities where he would make public speaking appearances. He would mostly speak about overcoming a stroke and heart failure. About re-learning to play the guitar not once but twice, and going on to record and tour some of his best work. He also spoke about suicide and how it ravaged his family life. He was open and honest about the fact that it happened in the first place, but also how it colored his perspective and how he chose to deal with it.
After one of these engagements, a woman pulled us aside and thanked him profusely for bringing up suicide and for being so open about its effects. She shared with us that her son, a young musician, had taken his own life. As a mother you can imagine her devastation, but in spite of it she had begun to edit some of his recordings in order to create an album to share with his friends and family. She wanted his music to connect with people even though he was gone, and most of all, she wanted to talk about him. She wanted to share all the good times and the memories of him. Not only did she want to preserve all those things in her mind, she also wanted everyone around her to remember her son. She told us with tears in her eyes, “Nobody talks about him, nobody says his name.” She knew that, particularly because of the stigma of suicide, people were afraid to bring him up in front of her, but what she wanted more than anything was for people to talk to her about her beloved son.
I will never forget her and I learned a huge lesson that day. I might have been one of those people who, for fear of bringing up a traumatic event, wouldn’t have mentioned her son. I will never again make that mistake.
I know it’s a risk. You may not want to talk to me about Pete because you think it will make me sad–it might–or it might make me smile, or even laugh, but even if it does make me sad, don’t be afraid to see me cry.
Have you had similar experiences from either of these perspectives? I'd love to know your thoughts.