Hello Beautiful

May 14, 2010 at 6:47 am 1 comment

A true story – remembering Merrilee Black Patek — 
Hello Beautiful
©Sue Black

It was one of those early March days that hinted at Spring. The warm air promised better days would come. Merrilee took some extra time and made herself look nice before leaving the house. She needed to run some errands, but she also just needed to get out and savor the day.
When she was finished she returned home, entered the back door, and heard the smile in her husband’s voice as he called out his familiar greeting. “Hello Beautiful!” he said.
Merrilee smiled as she thought of all the times over the past 35 years that David had greeted her with “Hello Beautiful”. Merrilee wasn’t quite sure she knew exactly when it had started, but she did know she had never believed it to be true. How could it be? Popular styles and the media told her she was not tall enough, not thin enough, not the right size or shape or hair color. Certainly, it wasn’t true. As a result of not believing David’s words, Merrilee never quite knew how to respond to his greeting. She simply pushed it aside and indulged his calling her that.

Merrilee knew David had spotted her in the alto row of the church choir back when they were in college. There were others around her who sang with more gusto, who always hit the notes right the first time, but he hadn’t seemed to notice them. He had chosen her. He had asked her to make beautiful music with him.
So she became his wife and created a beautiful home. Just a few years later she knew he saw her as a beautiful mother—she was the one who knew all about bottles and cheerios and nighttime fevers. She was the one who played Candyland with the children for hours on end, sometimes winning and sometimes losing. She was the one who knew she was teaching some of life’s greatest lessons in the winning and the losing. During the years of band practice, scouts, sporting events, and dances, she was the one who had discovered the incredible uniqueness of each of her children.
Then the teen years had arrived. Merrilee had hung on tight as she had ridden the roller coaster of those years. What a wild ride it had been, but she had made it! By then, she figured if David wanted to call her “Beautiful”, it was a title she just may have earned.
Middle age arrived. On days when Merrilee felt overweight, overlooked and so gray she had grown invisible, David would still call out “Hello Beautiful!” when she walked through the door. She still did not know how to respond, and only smiled at his foolishness. Even if it had once been a little bit true, she knew it never would be again.
Yet, something about that particular March day—the one that held the promise of Spring– was different. Merrilee knew she was different. She knew she had gained weight, her face was even bloated—the steroids had done that. She knew that underneath the hat she had worn and beneath the makeup she had carefully applied that morning, she had no hair or eyebrows or eyelashes—the chemotherapy had done that. Something truly ugly was growing inside of her—the cancer had done that.
David’s greeting even sounded different to Merrilee that day. It was like that moment when the director of the choir steps up to the podium with her hands held high, and everyone waits in hushed silence for her hands to fall. They know that’s when the first note sounds will sound and they’ll be clear and strong and true. That’s how Merrilee heard David’s greeting that day—clear, strong, true. “Hello Beautiful”.
Those 2 simple words struck a chord in Merrilee that resonated through her. She understood then what she had never understood before; David was greeting her beautiful soul. He was telling her he had found joy in that very moment. “Did she see it too?”, he was asking. He was proclaiming “Hey, it’s a beautiful day. We’re alive. We’re together. We’re in this together. Life is a gift from God and I’m grateful for it.”
These were not words that needed to be pushed away or deflected. Instead, Merrilee took a deep breath, put her shoulders back, and let his words embrace her soul. They warmed her heart, frozen in fear since word of the cancer had arrived. The words kindled a small flame of hope, so long missing, since the doctors told her she should have none. That warmth spread through her body like sunshine on a new spring day. And it all felt….. beautiful.
Merrilee shook her head then at her own foolishness. Of course she knew how to respond to David’s greeting. She should have known all along; it seemed so obvious now. She smiled and then laughed out loud. She threw off the hat that covered her bald head, rounded the corner to meet her husband, and sang out: “Yes, yes, Hello Beautiful!”


Entry filed under: Living Out Loud.

On Professional Conferences While She Was Driving

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Karen Chace  |  May 24, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    I remember the first time I heard you tell this at Northlands…I can still hear your voice sharing it with us. Beautiful indeed.


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