I first saw the news on Facebook: “Country singer Joey Martin Feek dead at 40 after cervical cancer battle.” I immediately felt my heart ache. I knew her time on Earth was coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean I was prepared to read that she had passed.
Like so many others, I started following Joey’s cancer journey when her husband Rory began documenting it on his blog, This Life I Live. The fact that Joey was battling cervical cancer grabbed my attention. Cervical cancer. The disease that took my mom and made me a motherless daughter.
From the beginning I have praised and thanked Rory for having the courage to tell Joey’s story. I even wrote a blog post in October about how much I admire Rory for what he has done for Joey. I never published that post, but one paragraph reads: “Cervical cancer does not discriminate. It does not care if you’re only 39 or if you have a newborn baby to care for. My heart aches for Joey, Rory and their family, but I am proud of this man for having the strength at the end of the day — after all the hospital stays, chemotherapy and sleepless nights — to write about what they are experiencing and share it with the world. Thank you, Rory, for putting a face to this cancer. A beautiful face, at that. Even through treatments and extreme exhaustion, as you’ve described in your blog, Joey is beautiful and her smile is radiant. I know it’s not your intention to specifically call attention to cervical cancer awareness, but sharing Joey’s journey has put it out there. Thank you.”
While I’ve read every post on Rory’s blog — some more than once — I almost didn’t read what he wrote about Joey’s passing because I knew it would make me cry. Joey’s journey has hit so close to home for me; at times I even felt like I was reliving my mom’s cancer journey through Rory’s blog posts. He has done a beautiful job telling their story, so I decided that I needed to see how he put her death into words; I needed to finish the chapter.
I was about eight paragraphs in when I read something that made me stop right where I was at. Rory said: “When a person has been through as much pain and struggle as Joey’s been through, you just want it to be over. You want them to not have to hurt anymore, more that you want them to stay with you. And so, it makes the hard job of saying goodbye just a little easier.”
I couldn’t believe it. Rory said exactly what I felt nearly seven years ago, but have rarely had the courage to say out loud.
My mom was hospitalized for a week before she finally passed away. When I look back on that time I remember how quickly her condition deteriorated. One day she was able to talk to us and the next day she was in a deep sleep. She had been in so much pain for so long — even before she was diagnosed she was hurting — and when we knew she was reaching the end of her journey here, those final days felt like a lifetime.
Like Rory, I just wanted it to be over. I wanted my mom to not hurt anymore. So, I prayed that Jesus would take her and heal her. I knew my time with her here had come to an end, but I also knew I would one day walk with her again in a place where cancer doesn’t exist. Rory is right, saying goodbye is a hard job, but I’m at ease knowing that my mom no longer feels any pain.
In his post, Rory also writes about how much Joey adored Dolly Parton, and he shares a special video Dolly made for Joey. This made me think of one of my favorite songs that Dolly recorded with Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn — “Let Her Fly.” The words of this song bring tears to my eyes each time I hear them because they remind me of my mom. Sometimes I listen to it when I’ve had a difficult day missing her and just need to cry. Given Joey’s love for Dolly, I think this a beautiful song to play for her, as well.
Fly high, Joey.