It's Been Nearly One Year Since Sara Evans Lost Her Father to Alzheimer's Disease — and It Still Hurts

Evans recently partnered with the Alzheimer's Association and recorded a brand-new version of her iconic hit "A Little Bit Stronger"

It's been nearly one year since Sara Evans lost her father Jack to Alzheimer's disease, and she says she can still feel her soul aching.

And it probably always will.

"I can't believe it's been a year," Evans, 50, says in a recent interview with PEOPLE. "It was horrible because we were sort of estranged my whole life. And then I wasn't able to have any real closure with him before he lost his mental abilities. And so, the most devastating aspect of it was just that we weren't able to clear anything up. And now, he's just gone."

Sarah Evans
Sara Evans. Alzheimer's Association

Granted, Evans did spend much important time with her father. In fact, it was he who taught the Missouri native to sing, and even drove her to Nashville to pursue a career that would ultimately turn out a slew of hits such as "Suds in the Bucket," "Born to Fly" and "A Real Fine Place to Start."

But in 2017, Evans' father began showing signs of early-onset Alzheimer's disease, and the very next year, he entered an assisted living home in Dallas, Texas. And last year, COVID-19 restrictions kept Evans from seeing him before his death.

"It's just so hard," she says. "You wake up to it every day. You just wish it hadn't worked out that like that."

In fact, Evans admits that she has sought out therapy to help with the feelings she is now left to grapple with.

"Watching him decline so rapidly was unbelievable," Evans reflects. "It was like one day he was there and the next day he was not making sense. He started making these strange noises and it was just really hard because you just didn't know exactly what he knew, you know? I had no way to know, is he aware of all this? It's just a really scary and horrible disease."

Sarah Evans
Sara Evans. Alzheimer's Association

And while the pain can be heard in every word Evans now speaks, she has found little ways in which to combat it, including her recent partnership with the Alzheimer's Association as part of their "Music Moments" campaign in which she recorded a brand-new version of her iconic hit "A Little Bit Stronger." Certainly, it's a song whose lyrics seem to take on a whole new meaning as November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month and Family Caregivers Month.

"I completely believe that music is a blessing from God, just like every good thing that we have in this life," Evans says. "And so, I think that it's not surprising that music would be healing and be something that's deep within your spirit. It's so deep in your spirit that even Alzheimer's can't really block it out."

Indeed, during her father's battle with the disease, Evans' stepmom would often play her music for her dad.

"I get choked up even thinking about that," she says as she begins to cry. "Obviously he had to have felt something, right?" Evans sighs. "Still, the fact is that we were not as close as I would have loved to have been. And so, knowing that he was listening to my music makes me think even more about if he thought about me a lot more than I thought he did? Obviously, he did, because the fact is that you love your children no matter what the circumstances are."

These internal struggles have been happening at the very same time that Evans has been dealing with some physical struggles also, including a battle with COVID-19 this past summer that ultimately left her on a month-long prescription of complete vocal rest.

"I coughed for three weeks straight, and coughing is an absolute no-no for a singer," says Evans, who also dealt with some body aches as part of her bout with COVID-19, but all in all says it "didn't hit me hard." "But I had shows to do, so I kept singing on top of the cough. I finally went to my voice doctor, and he did a scope of my vocal cords, and they were just so swollen. They told me I needed to take 30 days without a peep. So, I did not make a sound for 30 days."

Sarah Evans
Sara Evans. Alzheimer's Association

RELATED: Sara Evans Had 'Severe PTSD and Anxiety' After Being Hit by a Car at Age 8: 'I Still Struggle'

Luckily for Evans and her longtime fans, her vocal cords have now healed, allowing the country music icon to get back out on the road as part of her Copy That tour. But nevertheless, she is still taking it easy.

"It's just like any other muscle injury you have…you can't just go right back full force," says Evans, who had just begun work on a new album when she was put on vocal rest. "When I first went back, I tried to just use my voice when I was singing."

But now, Evans is looking to put the last couple of painful years behind her, and head back into the studio.

"I want to make a great record and give people new music and new joy because you know, music really does give people joy," concludes Evans. "It's so very important."

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