Three Funerals and an Album

Heather Stewart

My father passed away a couple years ago.  My uncle one month before him.  Another uncle a month after.  I went to three funerals in the span of three months all at the same funeral home.  I’m fairly certain the funeral home was getting suspicious of the ladies in our family.  Had any of the men who passed away been rich, there would have been some arrests.  If it weren’t my actual life, I would have thought I was playing a part in a film.  Except Hugh Grant was nowhere to be found.

During that time, I felt so numb yet the most alert I had been in years.  I was angry yet overwhelmed by love.  Things were funnier and more painful.  I felt more and less. You know those moments you have in life where you are doing something mundane and you think, “What the f*ck is THIS all about?!”  Death feels like that except for much longer moments, strung together, for quite a while.  It was during one of these extended, painful WTF moments that I noticed a refrigerator magnet for sale in line at a flower shop.  “Life is what happens when you are making plans!”  I stared at it .  For a long time.  It made so much sense and it was so annoying.  Death can make even the most nauseating clichés very poignant.

Plans.  Yeah.  I had been “planning” a lot of things.  The biggest plan was to record my second album (I’m a singer-songwriter). I had been “planning” it for five years.  Five. Years. Of. My. Life.  But I wasn’t planning; I was avoiding.  Terrified.   “I blew my wad on the first one!  It was a fluke! I’m a fraud!  People will hate it!”  I felt all these things but told myself the next album was “in the works”.  Then that little ceramic magnet put it all in perspective.    “Life is what happens when you are making plans!”   (Please apply whiney, high-pitched sarcastic voice.)

I bought that stupid magnet and I started writing the music for my second album.  I wrote songs I did not think I was capable of writing.  I wrote songs with other songwriters I would have been afraid to even talk to in the past.  I wrote for my father.   I wrote because I was afraid not to.  I wrote because life goes by fast and loved ones die.  I wrote because I wanted to stop making plans.  I wrote to save my life and to live my life.

I started out thinking I was just going to record a 5 song EP.  It would be easier, less money, not as intimidating.  I worked with producer Greg Critchley and we decided the album needed a very organic and raw sound.  Not a lot of layered tracks, recorded at different times and places but one live take.  It’s called recording “live off the floor”.  Greg assembled the most amazing group of musicians I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  We played these musicians an acoustic version of the songs in studio, day of, and then let them interpret it the way the felt it.  The moment they started playing the first song I couldn’t breathe.  I thought I was having an asthma attack.  Then I started crying.  I quite literally got choked up.  The music, my music, my father, my uncles, five years of my life, hell, the rest of my life, was pouring out into the studio.  It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.

After that, I knew I had to do an entire album of music.  Five songs weren’t enough.  On October 8th my sophomore album came out and I had a CD Release party here in Los Angeles.  I looked around the room and saw all of my friends and family and again I cried.  I did it.  I made it happen.  I know my father was there.  I know my uncles were there.  As for Hugh Grant, I think he was busy making plans.

17 thoughts on “Three Funerals and an Album”

  1. Heather ~ your story touched me. I’m so sorry you lost your father and uncles. I’m sure for each it was before their time…it happens that way…we all will pass before doing everything we wanted/hoped to do.

    Perhaps the gift they left you was to push you to do your greatest work. You see, I’m listening to the song clips on your site as I write this comment to you…beautiful, soulful, haunting…a work of art. Do you think that you could have gone there without that very precious gift? Maybe yes, but maybe it would have taken many years of multiple, smaller wounds to get there.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. I’m heading over to iTunes to buy your album now. Maybe listening to it and thinking of your story remind me, at age 54, to not waste a second hiding behind excuses and to live life out loud.


    1. Thank you Ree for your comments. Yeah, tragedy definitely has a way of “waking us up”. I think the goal is trying to be that way without the tragedy part to motivate it. We can do it!

  2. What a fabulous text (and like Ree, I too am listening to your music while typing this – I will be buying your album!). I just lost my father this past May (he himself had been to the same funeral home for two of his friends not long before he was celebrated there) and, while it’s still very raw and surreal, it is making me look at my life and what I want to do with it. Time keeps moving forward – faster and faster as the big 5-0 is around the corner!

    Congrats on seeing that “annoying” magnet and getting the inspiration you needed to create as you did!

    1. Thanks Dale! I’m so sorry to hear about your father. Nothing easy about it. My grandma once told me each decade goes by a little faster than the last. Great motivation to quit fooling around and get whatever you want done!

  3. Thank you for sharing, I’m glad you made your album and wish you all the best. I lost my mum earlier this year and it’s been difficult. Your experience with the fridge magnet is similar to mine with a cushion except mine reads “Happiness is a journey not a destination”, normally I hate these homilies but I brought this one, to remind myself that it’s today that matters not some longed for future.

    1. Denise, so sorry to hear about your mom. It’s just such a difficult thing to process. Thanks for commenting and I have read the “happiness is a journey” quote before…it’s a good one. I may buy that cushion myself.

  4. ” The vision must be followed by the venture.

    It is not enough to stare up the steps…..

    We must step up the stairs. “

  5. “But I wasn’t planning; I was avoiding”

    Been there for the observation. When i wanted to start a blog about 2-3 months ago.
    Kept buying domain names, not happy with any one I bought. Kept reading and researching whether I should use real name or pseuydonymn etc. etc…
    Respect that you made the album.

  6. Hi Heather…well done you…brilliant article!! Sounds like you’ve found your place and the impetus to get on with your dream. The death of a loved one can give us a kick in the pants and puts life into perspective…I expect your father and uncles would be very proud of you.

  7. Heather ,Just lost my Dad yesterday. I look around and see him everywhere… ,because we shared so much life together for so long ,longer than most he was 84. I have appreciated writing about him ,and family times . Sometimes we wrote together, I would ask him questions of his youth , family, likes and also about death . Loss is something that comes to us all , sometimes it breaks our hearts and we are changed.. Melted from what was before into something new. Sometimes we are in between , halfway in , inside that newness ,we reach or confine . Speaks the spell of love …

  8. Oh Barbara so sorry about your dad. Happy though that you had until 84 with him and it sounds as if you had a great relationship. Here’s to love and loss and celebration and everything in between and being grateful for wonderful friends and family!

  9. Hi Heather… dad passed 4 yrs ago @ 87 took it pretty hard since he was “my rock”. Two months ago today, Friday the 13th lost mom, then just a few weeks later on Oct 8 my first grand daughter was born. Talk about emotional roller coaster. I feel love, sadness, joy & at the same time. I had done alot of thinking after dad passed & made a decision to not wait once I discovered where my heart was, and then eventually what I wanted to do w/it. I have been self-teaching myself photography for a few yrs now. My business web site has been at least half done for over a year but not yet live. I had went through the fear issues as I was planning. This is the closest I have come to pulling it together but everytime I do things come crashing down. Right now experiencing my external HD went, my computer crashed was under warranty but the company instead of taking 10 days took a month & now I’m fighting for them to still return all of my computer! They never call back. I am extremely unhappy doing my present job and I feel so stuck, I’m not sure what to do only where I want to be.

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