When Don Stewart was growing up in Texas, he fell asleep with a guitar each night. When he married his wife Kit in 1972, she took its place.
They had been married 38 years and were living in Durham when doctors told Kit she had renal pelvic cancer. She died just four months later.
After her death, Stewart lay in his empty bed trying to deal with the grief. He brought out his guitar, laid it on his chest like old times and strummed a few chords. He didn’t realize it, but he was writing a song.
Stewart and eight other North Carolina musicians have released a mini-album of original songs about losing a loved one, with all proceeds going to Duke HomeCare & Hospice where Kit died.
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The album title, “Someday” shares its name with one of the songs, which is about Stewart hoping to meet his wife again. A portion of the lyrics reads: “We will fly alone together, listenin’ to the wind. Knowing love that has no boundaries, it will never end.”
Stewart, 64, wrote all of the songs on the album, which has raised over $1,000 since its late September release.
In the year following Kit’s death, Stewart wrote 77 songs about memories of his wife and his emotions. As a retired engineer and amateur rock musician, he wrote music just to express himself. But one of his friends suggested talking to a producer.
“The only thing I knew how to do was play the guitar and make up words,” Stewart said. “I had never written a song or been in a recording studio or anything until Kit died.”
In 2012, Stewart reached out to producer Chris Wimberley, owner of Nightsound Studios in Carrboro.
Wimberley’s father had also recently died in hospice care, and he was interested in the songs. He narrowed them down to just five, focusing on a central theme of loss.
“Everyone experiences loss and grief differently, but I think these songs address a spectrum of common feelings and reactions to loss,” Wimberley said.
And because Stewart was not interested in making a profit, Wimberley suggested recording the songs and donating the money to a charity.
“When I wrote the songs, it never occurred to me that it would do anybody any good,” Stewart said. “I was just writing how I felt.”
But he agreed it was a good idea and decided on Duke HomeCare & Hospice, the organization in charge of Duke Hospice at the Meadowlands in Hillsborough where Kit died.
With the project in mind, Stewart and Wimberley decided to get other North Carolina artists involved. The musicians include underground rockabilly artist Dex Romweber and Harvey Dalton Arnold from the Outlaws.
“Part of the reason is because I’m not that good,” Stewart said. “And then the other reason was we were hoping that it would bring the fans in to make donations for the Hospice.”
Chuck Champion, Andrea and Pete Connolly (Birds and Arrows), Heather McEntire (from Mt. Moriah), Skylar Gudasz and Rachel Hirsch (from I was Totally Destroying it) also appear on the album.
Dee Blake, director of development at Duke HomeCare & Hospice, thinks Stewart’s way of donating is unique.
“We are not taught in school, church or other community groups about how to process grief,” Blake said. “However, I think the songs will resonate with anyone who has lost a loved one in recent years.”
The lake is so quiet at sundown. Remember the boat we would row.You’re starting to fade in the darkness. I have such a long way to go. I miss you.To kiss you. I want to be with you.
– “At Sundown”
The album is available at donstewart.bandcamp.com. A minimum $5 donation is requested. Wimberley calls the album a “download for donation,” and hopes to see more projects like “Someday” in the future. If artists are donating proceeds to charity, Wimberley says Nightsound will discount the costs of using the studio.
Duke HomeCare and Hospice serves 7,516 patients each year, including 1,290 in hospice care. The money raised by “Someday” will go toward unreimbursed hospice services and community bereavement services.
Stewart is working on a follow-up to “Someday,” which will feature 13 songs and other North Carolina musicians. He says it will be released in late 2015 or early 2016.
To order the album
The album “Someday” is available at donstewart.bandcamp.com. A minimum $5 donation is requested
All profits from this album go to the Duke Homecare and Hospice, which provides sensitive, respectful, palliative care in a setting that best meets the needs of families in need, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, hospital, or nursing home. If you’d like to know more about how your purchase will help, call Duke Homecare and Hospice at 919-479-0317