If you’re like me, you’ve followed the story of country starts Joey and Rory Feek with great interest over the past few months. The duo, partners in marriage and in song, have inspired us time and time again as they bravely face Joey’s battle with terminal cervical cancer. Joey stopped treatment for her cancer in October and entered hospice shortly thereafter. The couple has two grown daughters, Heidi and Hopie, and a 2-year-old baby girl, Indiana.
What has impressed me most about Joey and Rory during this very public battle is their faith in God. The couple have professed their trust in Christ and his plan for their lives over and over in interviews and on Rory’s blog, This Life I Live. Their transparency of faith through what is literally the worst of times for them, has inspired me to tears time and time again. This week, as it was announced that their new—and probably last— album Hymns and Songs That Are Important to Us was #1 on the Billboard Charts, I rejoiced with them! I’ve felt their sorrows and it was so nice to feel some joy with them. And as I once more read Rory’s inspiring words, it got me thinking about what I’ve learned from watching this incredible family through the last few months…I wrote some things down, and now I want to share them with you.
1. Life is worth fighting for—and it’s worth living when it’s hard
When Joey was diagnosed with cervical cancer just a few months after baby Indiana was born, she fought for her life. And when more treatments needed to be pursued, they pursued them. Joey and Rory knew that while their eternal home IS in heaven, every day that God gives them here on this earth is a gift, and it’s ok to want to fight for those. Joey only stopped treatments when they were doing more harm than good, and then, Rory said, they brought her home not to die, but to LIVE—to really LIVE for as long as God allows.
2. You can always choose joy
I don’t want to sound like “O me of little faith,” but the truth of the matter is that Joey Feek is very ill. She is on hospice, just managing pain and not treating the cancer that is killing her. Barring a miracle, she will not live to see 2017. And yet. Her husband Rory’s accounts of their days together are FULL of joy. He describes how when Joey awoke last week on her baby Indiana’s 2nd birthday, she cried tears of joy and said, “We made it. We made it.” This was a day she had prayed for, and though she likely won’t see another of her baby’s birthdays, she chose JOY in celebrating the one she got to be there for. She didn’t waste a second lamenting what she won’t have.
3. It’s OK to be real
So yes, the Feeks choose joy. But they also don’t sugar-coat the pain or pretend these hard things are happening. One blog post that particularly touched me was one in which Rory described how Joey cried out “I want to raise our baby!” when facing the truth that she might not get to. He gave us that moment to show us the brutality of cancer, but then balanced it with Joey singing, incredibly, “It is Well With My Soul”. More recently, this quote from Rory about the reality of their lives right now really spoke to me:
Please don’t think that our life is all sappy tears and Hallmark-movie moments, like something out of a Nicholas Sparks novel, because it’s not. There is lots of real pain and hurt and frustration and fun and laughter… and most times, we just pinch ourselves because we feel so darn lucky and blessed. But the moments that seem to stand out – the ones that matter and hurt the most of course – have tears in them.
4. God is good, all the time
Ok, I already knew this one—but I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the way Joey and Rory have echoed this sentiment time and time again and reinforced my beliefs. What is getting them through this awful time—and what will sustain Rory and the family when Joey is gone—is their faith in Christ. Joey herself hit me right in the heart with this message when she told the Tennessean: “I don’t fear anything because I’m so close to God and we’ve talked about it so many times. I know He’s close. And I know He loves me. I’m really at peace.”
5. Being able to suffer together is what real marriage is all about
Joey and Rory Feek have shown me—and the world—what “in sickness and in health” and “for better or for worse” really means. They’ve had better and they’ve had health, and their love and devotion to one another through the sickness and worse is nothing short of breathtaking. When asked by Today.com what he most wanted people to know about his family, Rory said, ““I hope people say … he loves her. She loves him. Let’s love each other like that.”
6. Put others first
Through this journey, we’ve seen Rory put his wife’s needs first time and time again, moving from their farm in Tennessee back to Joey’s hometown in Alexandria, Indiana so that she could spend her last days near her family. We’ve seen Joey buy Rory a plane ticket to the Grammy’s and him cancel it, both trying to put each other first. And finally, this week, after their album hit #1 on the Billboard charts, we have Joey Feek thinking about what Rory should do with their royalties long after she’s gone:
When we hung up, Joey and I sat there holding hands… knowing that in time those sales could turn into some income for our family and that could really help, now that there are no more concerts or income from shows. We talked about what a blessing it was, and then she looked at me very seriously and said, “I need you to do something for me…”. I told her I would be glad to. Then with all the sincerity in the world, she said, “I need you to be generous… God has blessed us so much. We need to bless others’.
Oh, how I cried ALL the tears at that one. This precious couple never ceases to amaze me, and I will follow their journey here on earth as long as God allows it to continue. God bless you and THANK YOU, Joey and Rory.