32: Holes in the Floor of Heaven

32: Holes in the Floor of Heaven

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Holes in the Floor of Heaven

Story by Billy Kirsch

Song written by Steve Wariner and Billy Kirsch

Recorded by Steve Wariner

I got the title for “Holes in the Floor of Heaven” from my wife Julie. She came across that line in a novel she was reading and it really resonated with her. I remember we were in the kitchen doing dishes after dinner and I said, “That sounds like a great title for a song.” I wrote it down on a pad while I was sitting at my piano and tried writing to it several times. I would get excited, but then I would wake up the next morning and come in and look at it and think, “Nah, it’s not real enough.”

Several months after that, my grandmother passed away. This was back around 1997. I was living in Nashville and my daughter was maybe six or seven, and my son was about a year old. I took my daughter to the funeral with me in New York. It was a Friday night and American Airlines had a direct flight from Nashville to New York about 6:00 p.m. As we began the flight from Nashville, we were seated on the left side of the plane so we were looking west. It was a beautiful night. There were what my kids call “mashed potato clouds” and a bright orange sunset. And out of the mouths of babes, my daughter said, “I think I see God on his throne and I think I see Nanna Molly sitting next to Him.” Of course, I just lost it. I still get a catch in my throat when I tell that story years later. It was very real and very impactful, just the kind of thing that a six-year-old imagination would see.

As soon as she said that, I was starting to process it. I began to scribble that first verse. I wrote, “one day shy of six years old... grandma passed away... I was a broken hearted little girl.” By the time Steve recorded it, it became “eight years old” and a “little boy.”

When I got home from New York, I had finished the first verse. When you get an idea like that, you don’t share it with just anybody. We, as songwriters, start to get protective of those ideas when we’re still in the process of creating. I had been working on it for several months already and those kinds of ideas don’t come along every day.

Steve Wariner and I had already written several songs together and I went over to Steve’s one night to write. His wife and manager, Caryn, was standing in the kitchen making coffee when, out of the blue, she said, “You guys ought to write a story song today.” I smiled and reached for my bag and said, ‘Well, as a matter of fact. . .”

So Steve and I went up to the studio and I played him that first verse. I didn’t have a melody yet, but Steve picked up his guitar, like a great co-writer does, and launched into the chorus, singing “and there’s holes in the floor of heaven. . . .” We were off and running.

Then, like a lot of writers, we started to go from inspiration to craft and we were at the “Okay, what do we do next?” stage. We were trying to follow that “problem, evolution, and resolution” format, and realized we needed more. We knew that in the second verse, in order to move the story forward, somebody else might have to die or something. At the time, my wife was recovering from being treated for thyroid cancer, so it was a pretty emotional time in my life. I don’t know whether subconsciously that was on my mind, but we came up with the idea for the mother to pass away. Then it was Steve’s idea for the daughter to get married later and have her mom’s tears falling on her during the wedding. It was a great collaboration.

We played it for Caryn and she said, “That song is for Steve,” because we had written for other artists together before. He was at the end of his deal with his record label and was starting to shop himself again. Caryn would say, “Yeah, Steve met with so-and-so, but they don’t hear ‘Holes’ as the first single.” She was very passionate about that song. She just knew it was going to be his comeback song and she wanted it out as soon as possible. And, of course, we said “Oh, just sign the deal already! It will come out sooner or later.” But she has a great business sense, and she was right.

A few months later, Steve was on a plane coming back from L.A. Garth Brooks and Pat Quigley, who was the head of Capitol Records then, were also on the plane. Steve played the demo for Garth. As soon as he heard it, he put the headphones on Pat Quigley. Pat just flipped and said, “Let’s go. Let’s put this out. We want to do a record deal with you.” So Garth helped Steve get his deal with Capitol. Garth is very selfless that way. He is always willing to help out other artists.

Two or three weeks later, we were in the studio recording the song, and Steve was doing the vocal and we were adding the strings and parts. It was on the radio within weeks. In 1998, it was named Song of the Year at the Country Music Association and at the Academy of Country Music Awards.

Holes in the Floor of Heaven

One day shy of eight years old

Grandma passed away

I was a broken hearted little boy,

blowing out that birthday cake

Oh, how I cried when the sky let go

with a cold and lonesome rain.

Momma smiled, said “Don’t be sad, child

Grandma’s watchin’ you today”

CHORUS:

’Cause there’s holes in the floor of heaven

and her tears are pourin’ down

That’s how you know she’s watchin’

wishin’ she could be here now

And sometimes if you’re lonely

just remember she can see

There’s holes in the floor of heaven

and she’s watchin’ over you and me

Seasons come and seasons go

Nothin’ stays the same

I grew up fell in love

met a girl who took my name

Year by year we made a life

in this sleepy little town

I thought we’d grow old together

Lord, I sure do miss her now.

CHORUS

Well my little girl is 23

I walk her down the aisle

it’s a shame her mom can’t be here now

to see her lovely smile

They throw the rice

I catch her eye

as the rain starts comin’ down

She takes my hand says, “Daddy don’t be sad ’cause

I know momma’s watchin’ now”

CHORUS

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