How Rory Feek Keeps Late Wife Joey's Memory 'Alive' for Their 6-Year-Old Daughter
On this crisp winter day in Columbia, Tennessee, Rory Feek is reflecting on the four-year anniversary of his late wife Joey Feek’s death.
“Well it is tomorrow, and that’s a big deal,” the Grammy winner, 54, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “Four years is a long, long time. I mean, that’s the majority of Indiana’s life.”
Indiana was just 2 years old when her mother Joey — Rory’s partner in marriage and music as part of the country duo Joey+Rory — lost her battle with cervical cancer on March 4, 2016 after braving multiple treatments and surgeries. She was 40.
Rory — who shares the ups and downs of being a single dad in This Life I Live, a new docuseries inspired by his blog that airs Sundays on RFD-TV — says he and their daughter feel Joey’s love “everywhere” on their farm in Tennessee, from the house Joey decorated to her final resting place under the trees.
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Calling the cemetery a “beautiful place where we walk and spend a lot of time,” Rory recalls how his daughter Indiana has started to “lay down right in front of mama’s cross and look up at the sky.”
Indiana — who recently lost her two front teeth, giving her “the funniest, prettiest little smile” — is “getting bigger and she’s thinking more and she’s talking about things differently,” Rory says. “Now every time we leave [the cemetery], she wants to kiss Mama’s cross, every single time.”
The father and daughter are reminded of Joey’s legacy in sweet, serendipitous moments. Over a recent lunch with loved ones, Indiana immediately recognized the woman’s voice singing on the radio.
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“Indiana goes, ‘It’s Mama,'” Rory remembers. “Indiana starts singing the song, and I thought, ‘No.’ I couldn’t really hear it. All of us got really quiet, and it took a lot of work for me to realize that’s Joey. One of our songs was playing on the radio.”
Despite the passage of time, “She’s highly aware of her mama, her mama’s voice, what her mama looks like. She keeps her alive, just like I do.”
While Rory is picking up Joey’s entertaining skills but not quite her cooking talents — he feels Joey “nudging me on, trying to make me a little better” — Indy feeds her mom’s horses and her very own pony.
“Life has a way of being okay. Life keeps going. The world keeps turning. It doesn’t mean that you don’t miss that person like crazy and that there isn’t a big void inside of you,” he tells PEOPLE. “But that also doesn’t mean that there can’t be a lot of joy and happiness and you can’t wake up every day pinching yourself, which is what I feel like I do. And I don’t think I would have known that exactly four years ago.”