Rory Feek remembers his wife’s most selfless gesture
Imagine living with a terminal illness and knowing your daughter would soon be without you. What would you do to prepare her for that? When singer Joey Feek realized cancer would soon be taking her away from her daughter, she decided to step back: to become “less” so her husband could be “more” for their child — hopefully making her baby’s transition to being without her less noticeable.
If you’re unfamiliar with Joey’s story, here’s a brief recap: She and her husband, singer Rory Feek, welcomed their daughter, Indiana, two years ago. (She’s a healthy, happy, and adorable little girl who was born with Down syndrome.) Soon after Indy’s birth, Joey was diagnosed with cervical cancer, which quickly became terminal. Joey lived to see her daughter turn two years old in February (a goal she set for herself), and passed away on March 4 of this year.
In a blog post he wrote on Easter, Rory details his wife’s love of the holiday. “I can’t help but think of my bride today. To remember all the Easters we’ve spent together over the years and what this morning would be like if she were still here with us. What it would mean to her to share Easter this year with our two-year-old. It would be so, so special.”
But the focus of the post is ultimately the bible verse, “He must become greater; I must become less,” which is reflected in the title of the post, “less is more.” Rory goes on to describe how Indy has not once asked for Joey since she died, which, he reveals, is what Joey wanted. “Indy has not asked for her mama,” he writes. “Not one single time since Joey’s been gone. It’s almost as if she hasn’t noticed that she’s not here. And that is so sad… and oh, so wonderful – all at the same time.”
When it became clear Joey would not survive her illness, she consciously pulled back from mothering Indiana and allowed Rory to step up and become “more.”
Rory says that Joey, “started going against everything in her being that told her ‘time was short’ so hold her baby even tighter… and longer… and more… and instead – she handed the baby to me, and sat alone in a bed and watched and listened as my relationship with Indy grew…and hers lessoned. I still remember the day a few weeks later when I was sitting on the couch near Joey’s bed and Indy was playing on the floor at my feet and Joey looked over at me and said, ‘she needs you now… ‘. I looked at Joey and saw the look on her face and knew what she meant, and I wanted to cry. But she just smiled and said, ‘…it’s best this way honey’.”
Rory marvels at his wife’s strength in making this decision. “I would’ve taken the low, easy road…the one that served me more. I would’ve tried to make the ties with our baby stronger and her love for me deeper so that she wouldn’t forget me… and in the end, probably left our baby wrecked with grief over the loss of the one person she loved and needed most. But not Joey. She let Indy fall more in love with me…and less in love with her. She carried the pain on her own shoulders, to try to keep it off of mine. And even more so, off of Indy’s.”
What a beautiful testament to what it truly means to be a parent. When you get to the heart of it, parenting is simply about being selfless. It is about choosing what is best for your child even when it hurts you. And, as well all know, that is an incredibly hard thing to do.
This does not mean that Indy won’t mourn her mother, long for her, miss her and what could have been. Grief is a long, bumpy, never-ending road. But while this story is rooted in sadness, it’s ultimately beautiful. It is the greatest testament to Joey as a mom, a partner, and a person. She allowed herself to be less not just so her husband could be more, but so her daughter could have more.
What a gift.