It’s been four years since Trisha Yearwood lost her mother to breast cancer, but when the singer invited a group of survivors of the disease for lunch at her Brentwood, Tenn., home Tuesday, it felt like one more chair should be set around her table.
“An event like this, my mom would have eaten it up,” the singer told PEOPLE. “To meet these women and hear their stories and get the chance to tell her story, she would have enjoyed it so much.”
With her mother as inspiration, Yearwood, along with her sister, Beth, sat with 18 breast cancer survivors and supporters to share stories of loss and triumph.
“This is a day of honor for me,” Yearwood told the women, as they gathered in her kitchen. “You’re here today because I know your story. Everybody at this table has been touched ” the singer trailed off, wiping a tear before being able to continue. “I lost my mom four years ago we’re all in it together.”
As the women swapped tales of chemo and recovery, they dined on smashed sweet pea sliders, roasted beet salad and meat-free “Chickless Pot Pie” (a favorite of Yearwood’s mother during her battle with cancer), all from the singer’s latest cookbook, Trisha’s Table. “We chose recipes that are healthy for these women and what they are going through and yet still feel like they were getting a comfort meal,” Yearwood says.
The singer says “it just made sense” to host the event around the table at her own home:”All those important conversations happen around the dinner table in my house – that was the time of day when everybody got together and that’s when those moments happen.”
The meal also served as a test run of sorts for the singer’s new cookware line, the Precious Metals Cookware Collection sold at JCPenney, and the singer says she loves the idea of mixing business with a cause close to her heart.
“No matter who I’ve partnered with business-wise, I’ve always looked for the personal element in it,” she says. Penney’s, which raised $1 million for breast cancer research in October, also donated $25,000 to the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center, where the singer’s mother had received care, an amount Yearwood announced she and husband Garth Brooks would match.
Yearwood called for tissues as her guests shared their cancer journeys. “I’m sure lunch was supposed to be over an hour ago, but I don’t care!” she declared after the last testimony. “When I go every year to get a mammogram I m am always nervous, but sitting here today makes me feel if I go and don’t dodge that bullet, I’ll be OK. This was a really cool thing and we all need to encourage each other.”