Validity readers first met Catharine Hess in January, 2012, when an onslaught of songwriting had overtaken the 73 year old woman. See the original story here.
It is time for an update. This is how our conversation went.
Catharine, who also goes by Caty Lou, was 73 when a song first came to her. She wrote it down, and within a few months, hundreds more poured themselves through her fingertips to paper.
A young friend, Peter Dickson, began putting the words to music, then Catharine decided voice lessons were in order so she could perform herself. Melissa Wickline, vocal coach, came in to help.
But March 10, 2014, almost a year to the day when the first song came, a second diagnosis of cancer was a major surprise. “I thought it was a spider bite on my breast.”
Walking out of the doctor’s office, “Well, shit!” was all she had to say. She had a friend with her and the two of them went out and had a margarita at 10:30 a.m. When the bartender carefully inquired about their drinking early in the day, they said “We are celebrating.”
“You gotta have a sense of humor,” she laughed.
“Without the music, I don’t think I would have fought,” Catharine admitted. When her husband died in 2009, “I didn’t have a reason to go on. Then the music hit me.”
Songs From Serenity, her first CD, has sold out, and with her second order, Catherine was inspired to give back. For a donation of $10 per CD, Catharine has pledged to donate that amount to the Lewis County Cancer Victim’s Fund. The fund, local to the Hohenwald area, offers 100 percent of monies raised to assist families of cancer victims with fuel for travelling out of town for treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation. The organization receives no government funding.
In a prayerful moment, Catharine asked God, “Why would you send me this music at 73?” Sitting in a sunny spot on her porch one winter day, she says the answer was clear, “I sent you the music to pull you through the cancer.”
“When someone has cancer, they must have a purpose. It’s not fun and it is scary. The word [cancer] is scary,” she added.
Of the port in her jugular vein, Catharine explained with a note of sarcasm, “It is metal and very attractive.” She continued, “It hurts when the doctors draw blood so they freeze it in an attempt to relieve the pain. But the freezing also hurts.”
To travel back and forth for treatments, Catharine makes use of public transportation, headquartered at the Senior Citizens Center. “It’s not just for seniors. It’s for anybody in the county to use. Students use it; $5 to go to Columbia, one way. And I can go to the grocery store for $1.”
In her spare time, Catharine says she plays bingo at the Senior Center. “If you win, you can get a banana or peanut butter crackers,” she said with a cackle. “This is how bored I get. It is something to do.”
“Life is funny,” Catharine commented. “When you are fighting cancer, you have to have a project. You have to have something to keep your mind on.”
Catharine and Peter are part of a songwriter’s group in Lewis County and hope to bring awareness of other songwriters in the area. They often share an open mic at the City Cafe on Main Street in Hohenwald.
And for her new take on life, she tells us all, “Don’t smooth me with compliments. You can’t learn from that. Be honest. That’s the only way you learn.”
Well, Catharine, we can honestly say, you are beautiful and an inspiration. Keep your chin up, keep writing and keep singing. You are a blessing.
To order Songs From Serenity, visit catylou.com or call 931-796-5793.