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 from diagnosis of ovarian cancer to death. At this point, in the midst of this multi-year project, I feel compelled to corral some of the thoughts I had and notes I made along the way.
"It's a journey. The challenge of our time is to find a journey worthy of (our) heart and soul."
-- Seth Godin
My journey -- since October 11, 2011 -- has been to go to the edges of death and dying, at first walking hand-in-hand with my Mom. She died on October 13, 2015.
I am still on the same journey.
These days I have been calling myself a "songwriter who is ready to die."
What does that mean?
I've spent the last five years contemplating death, preparing Mom for hers and preparing myself for mine. Being ready to die was and is a daily action, like bathing or eating or sleeping.
It is a way of being in the world.
Being ready to die.
With the songs I am writing now -- the Death Album (as I affectionately call it) -- I am using music to crack us open to a conversation about death and dying which is always also a conversation about life and living.
"Art might scare you.
Art might hurt you.
But art is who we are and what we do and what we need.
An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it all (all of it, the work, the process, the feedback from those we seek to connect with) personally." -- Seth Godin
It's been a little over two weeks since my Mom died.
I am so sorry for not reaching out sooner. I've been beyond heartbroken. More like heart-crushed. I've been speechless. Paralyzed to reach out to you. You, who have been such good friends, such tender, worthy companions on this four year journey.
It's just that the end was ... so many things. So very many things.
I'll be writing about it (the beginning, middle, and end of the end) more on this site, in songs, letters, essays, and on a new site I'm making chronicling my vagabonding in the land of death. I'll be painting and drawing about it, too. And, of course, I'll be living it. Day by day by day.
For now, for you, here is the obituary I wrote for my Mom and a portrait I took of her in 2014.
(If you'd like to leave a comment, please do. Don't second guess yourself. Just open your heart and write. I will read and respond to every single one of you. If you'd like to write me or my family a letter, my mailing address can be found on this page.)
On October 13, 2015 Katharine Draper “Puss” Schutt, 71, of Chadds Ford died peacefully at home after a lengthy and honorable reckoning with ovarian cancer. Puss was a lover of the outdoors, deeply committed to her community, and – above all – devoted to her family. Throughout her illness, she was tenderly cared for by her husband, children, and sisters, the oncology team at the Helen F. Graham Center, and Delaware Hospice.
Puss was raised on Twin Bridges Farm, Chadds Ford and was the second born of Katharine Reeve Draper and Ford B Draper. She attended Tower Hill School before graduating from Milton Academy in 1962 and from the University of Pennsylvania in 1966.
She married Charles Porter “Chip” Schutt Jr. in December 1967, embarking on a wonderfully full union of their two large families and the creation of their own. Puss joined Chip in his passion for sailing and they traveled extensively and adventurously.
Puss worked with great devotion for many organizations, including as President of the Garden Club of Wilmington and as President of the Board of Trustees of Tower Hill School. She contributed significantly to the successes of the Delaware Center for Horticulture, the Winterthur Point-to-Point, the Vicmead Hunt Club, and Christiana Care Health System where she remained engaged even throughout her last year. Her earnest interest, valuable insights, and wise counsel will be greatly missed by all who had the privilege of working alongside her.
Puss loved spending summers in Northeast Harbor, Maine and winters at Galio Farms in Vredenburgh, Alabama. She remained connected to both communities year-round through her subscriptions to the local papers. Since childhood and until her last days, she reveled and found solace in the natural world. For many years she shared a family passion for riding and foxhunting with Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds. Dogs, too, were always part of her life. She was an avid walker, alive to the particularities of the wildflowers and birds of every landscape.
Puss had a gift for remembering the complex genealogies of both her and Chip’s extended families. She delighted in creating and strengthening connections—hosting innumerable family gatherings, holiday meals, and impromptu get-togethers, writing unique and chatty letters, and always making the effort to ask about the lives and interests of others. She believed in the importance of a firm handshake and looking people in the eye. Puss had the true sign of greatness in that she was absolutely without pretension. She had a profound respect for every human being and was warm, generous, and inclusive in her attention.
Above all, she was the spark of the spirited family she and Chip created: daughter Kate of New York City; son Jake of Mill Valley, California, his wife Hilah, and their children Jasper, Elsa, and Luke; and son Porter of Wilmington, his wife Laurisa and their daughters Ryann, Tatum, and Bridget.
She was predeceased by her sisters Avery Draper of West Chester and Ellen Chadwick of Chadds Ford and is survived by siblings Jim Draper of Alexandria, Virginia, Prue Osborn of Unionville, Reeve Draper of Wilmington, and Ford Draper, Jr. of Chadds Ford.
Puss’s smile, kindness, and genuine interest in others will be remembered by all who knew her.
A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, November 7, at 10:00am, at Christ Church Christiana Hundred, 505 E. Buck Road, Wilmington, DE 19807. A reception will follow at Vicmead Hunt Club, 903 Owls Nest Road, Wilmington, DE 19807.