It’s a joyous and yet heartbreaking month for Joey and Rory Feek.
“Valentines Day is this Sunday, the Grammy awards Monday, our little Indiana turns 2 on Wednesday, and on top of all that, our new album [Hymns That Are Important to Us] was released today,” shares Rory, 50, via his blog This Life I Live on Friday. “I woke up just before the sun came up this morning with all those things on my mind.”
That got Rory – half of Grammy-nominated country and gospel duo Joey+Rory – thinking about his history with wife Joey, who is dying of terminal cancer at the age of 40.
“Our very first date was on Valentines day in 2002,” he writes of their inspiring love story. The horse-vet clinic Joey worked for at the time, Tennessee Equine Hospital, had a Valentines get-together for their staff and she invited me to come with her. That night must’ve gone pretty well … because two months later we were engaged and two months after that, Joey and I were married.”
“What I really want to do on this, our 14th Valentines together, is share a romantic candle-lit dinner with my bride: grill out rib-eyes on the campfire back home, pour two glasses of red wine and sit across from her at our kitchen table – just like we’ve done on more than one special occasion,” pens Rory. “But those things aren’t able to happen this year.”
Indeed, the husband and wife are far away from their beloved farm house in Pottsville, Tennessee – the Feeks relocated to her hometown of Alexandria, Indiana, last year as Joey began hospice treatment – and Joey’s condition continues to worsen. As Rory notes, the singer hasn’t been “able to eat much of anything for some time now and she sleeps most of the days and nights away.”
The loving husband adds: “So my hope this year instead is to hold her hand and take her on a ‘virtual’ walk down memory lane together… with pictures and videos on my laptop. I want to take her back to where our lives first began together, and relive this beautiful journey that God has taken us on …”
At this point, Rory simply wants the affection of his wife: “The passion for each other that Joey and I once had has been replaced by the sweetest, gentlest kisses,” he explains. “I live for those kisses. They are enough.”
In between kisses, the couple will watch their one-hour concert special, which is available online for free. “My wife is so beautiful on the stage, in the spotlight,” notes Rory. “So full of life and love. I started to watch it last night, but decided to wait.”
Once Valentine’s Day has come and gone, Joey and Rory will gear up for the Grammy Awards. And although they’ll be watching from her hospital bed, the couple will have strong support at the show in Los Angeles: his daughters from a previous marriage – Heidi, 29, and Hopie, 27 – will be in the audience with the duo’s devoted manager Aaron Carnahan.
“Joey tried to talk me into going with them … many, many times,” says Rory. “She even had a Southwest ticket purchased for me that I cancelled. I can’t leave her. I won’t. I have done many foolish things and made lots of mistakes in my life, but this isn’t going to be one of them.”
Instead, Heidi and Hopie are prepared to accept the award for best country duo/group performance should Joey+Rory win. “The girls have asked me to write something for them to read… just in case. I told them not to worry about it, but they insist. I can’t imagine our names being called. But then again, Joey and I also couldn’t have imagined us being where we are at all… the good parts or the bad.”
Rory continues: “So I will write something. And when she’s awake, I will run what I’ve written by Joey like I do all these blog posts. And she will say, ‘It’s beautiful honey,’ and then gently point out the words I’ve misspelled and let me know if I’ve left off something important, or am coming across sounding arrogant or insincere. She’s so smart and good. I might have the words that bring characters to life. But my wife has the character that brings my words to life.”
Topping off the bittersweet week: Indiana’s second birthday. “Our plan is to put streamers up around Joey’s bed and move Indiana’s high-chair in beside her, so Joey can be part of it. So she can watch our little one eat her cupcake and rip the wrapping paper off her gifts,” Rory writes of their celebration. “But Joey is very fragile right now, and so with all of these plans we have, we will need to adjust for what my wife needs.”