Changing the conversation around death and dying
Listen to the episode 29 of the Empowered Family Caregiver podcast with guest, Kate Schutt, right here. We had a tender conversation about her journey as a caregiver for her mother and how she changed the conversation around death and dying. It’s a beautiful story of love, compassion, courage, determination, peace, and music. Kate used her music to share her caregiving experience in a powerful way.
Kate’s Family Caregiving Story Overview
Here’s Kate’s caregiving story in her own words…
On December 9, 2017, I went into the studio to begin recording my next album — affectionately nicknamed (for now) “The Death Album.” The songs chronicle my time accompanying my mom as her primary caregiver from diagnosis of ovarian cancer to death. Music has been my way into almost every experience in life, including ones where I didn’t know what to do or say.
When my mom got sick, I knew what to do. However, as I cared for her over the years, I didn’t always know what to say. That part was always so tricky. These songs display my struggle to say something meaningful about a supremely shitty situation. Writing these songs helped me figure out what hurt and what helped. The song “Death Come Slow” is a perfect example of this.
It was the first song I wrote after she got cancer: “Death come slow/death come shy / death don’t you look her in the eye.” The lyrics and music were my way of making sense of an experience that was and still is, fundamentally unfathomable. Here, in the aftermath of Mom’s death, after four years of caregiving and two years of grieving, I see how these songs function as a kind of handbook for caring for the sick and dying.
I didn’t set out to write a handbook, I didn’t have time for that. Nevertheless, that’s what these songs are — a way through illness, death, and grief. My hope is that someone will hear one of these songs and use it to say something they are longing to say and have a longing to talk about with someone else. Maybe they’ll send it to someone they know who’s going through treatment for cancer or another equally life-shattering disease. Perhaps, they’ll send a song to a friend who’s lost a loved one. The song “Bright Nowhere” would do. It’s my attempt at an answer to the age-old question “Where do think you go when you die?” In the song, my answer starts like this: “All you have left is a little light and air / when she takes off for the bright nowhere.” I borrow that phrase “bright nowhere” from a beautiful elegy by Seamus Heaney called “Clearances.”
How do we want to live all the moments of our lives, not just the beginning or middle moments? Sometimes, we only need something small — a word, a phrase, a bit of melody married to a lyric — to release the catch on our hearts and minds. The rest of the words we’ve been longing to say will come.
Kate’s caregiving video
Kate Schutt recorded a beautiful video that you must watch HERE. This video is how I found Kate and her beautiful work.
Empowered Family Caregiver Interview Highlights
Tune in @ 3:00 to hear Kate’s caregiving journey.
Tune in @ 5:45 to hear how Kate approached the conversation regarding death with her mother. They approached everything from a place of curiosity. The questions Kate asked her mother were profound!
Asking questions like “who do you want to spend time with?” helps start conversations of the heart with your loved one.
Tune in @ 8:45 for Tandy’s perspective about learning more about her parents for the man and woman they were.
Tune in @ 10:00 where Kate shares what surprised her the most about her mom during this journey of awakening.
Tune in @ 11:55 to hear the toughest part of Kate’s caregiving journey. She was the quarterback of her mother’s care.
“I didn’t recognize myself,” says Kate of being entrenched in her mother’s care.
Tune in @ 14:30 to hear about how Kate picked up her guitar and write beautiful songs based on her experience. Kate shares about the conversation with her mom about her beliefs and chats about her new album, Bright Nowhere.Songs can pick up where words leave off. Click To Tweet
Hear about how people involved in creating her upcoming record came together in a supremely beautiful way!
Take 5 With Tandy Round
Tune in @ 23:23 where Kate shares her best piece of advice to reduce caregiver stress.
Tune in @ 23:48 where Kate shares her best piece of advice for new caregivers. Hint: There is power in CHOICE!
Tune in @ 25:02 for Kate’s thoughts about how she found her best during what seemed like her worst. This is also the theme for this year’s National Caregiving Conference #NCC18. Learn more about the conference here: www.caregiving.com.
Tune in @ 25:32 to get inspiration as Kate shares what she’s grateful for right now.
Tune in @ 27:03 where Kate shares what she would tell someone to keep hope alive.
Kate's new album includes songs about life, loss, and how to “live dyingly.” Click To Tweet
Kate Schutt’s Bio:
Kate Schutt is a singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer living in New York City. Raised in Chadds Ford, PA, Kate was schooled in Boston, both in Harvard’s English department, where she studied the influence of jazz on modern poetry and at Berklee College of Music, where she studied jazz guitar. A constant collaborator, Kate has worked with John Ellis (Charlie Hunter), Terri Lyne Carrington (Herbie Hancock), and Viktor Krauss (Lyle Lovett, Bill Frisell), to name only a few. In 2007 & 2009 Kate was the John Lennon Songwriting Contest Winner in the Jazz Category and received the ASCAP Plus Awards for Jazz Composition from 2006- 2009. Currently, Kate is working with legendary producer Rob Mounsey on a new album inspired by her mother’s diagnosis and death from ovarian cancer.
She spent four years as her mom’s primary caregiver, along the way writing songs about life, loss, and how to “live dyingly.” Known for her authenticity and connection to her fans, Kate’s been blogging about this experience from the start. Kate is a magna cum laude Harvard graduate, a two-sport Division 1 All-Ivy athlete in Women’s Ice Hockey and Women’s Lacrosse, a Berklee College of Music alum, an award-winning professional singer / songwriter / guitarist, a CrossFit Level 1 certified coach, a primary caregiver to a mother with stage 3c ovarian cancer (RIP), a National Outdoor Leadership School graduate and lifelong mountaineer, sailor, wrangler, and adventurer.
Connect with Kate:
Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kateschutt/
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