I’ve had someone on my mind and in my prayers the past few months. I know many are following her story. It’s all over Facebook. The headlines are always sensationalized it seems. The difference with this story is I actually know this person. I grew up next door to her. She’s 14 months younger than me and she and her siblings became my siblings from an early age. They were my playmates. She is living her last days on this Earth. For believers, we know she will be leaving this place we call home for her real home. This brings some peace, but for those remaining, a void. I’m writing about Joey Martin Feek.
Joey grew up in the farmhouse where my dad lived for many years. Our home was built next door to that farmhouse. Some of my earliest memories include playing with her and her sisters Jody and Julie, and her brother Justin. Jessie came several years later. If it was nice out, I was often at their house, a few steps away from mine. We were almost always outside. It seemed like all day long I would be over there, but who knows, time seems so different as a kid. We played in the barns, the horse trough, in the field, walked down the road. Somehow even with one good arm I remember climbing the vertical stair rung to get to the hay and find kittens and their mommas. We went to the corn crib and played school and house. I have great memories of dressing Justin up in girl clothes while he slept (or pretended to sleep). If I could compare my childhood to a TV show, it would have been very similar to Little House on The Prairie. We lived in simple times. We lived in safe times, or at least it seemed that way. There are only four homes in a mile stretch where we grew up. It’s far different from life in a neighborhood or even in a town or city.
Gardening is something you tend to do if you live in the country. My dad always had a large garden and my mom took care of canning and preparing our meals. The Martins were no exception. They also had a garden. Joey learned from an early age about living off the land and seemed to have a great appreciation for the simple life. I can tell that from Rory’s posts, from listening to their songs, to seeing pictures of Joey in their garden in Tennessee.
As we got older, playing together lessened. A few years later I left for college and Joey eventually moved to Tennessee. The last time I remember talking with Joey was in the Summer of 2006. She and Rory played at the Madison County 4-H Fair. After the concert was over, I went up and gave her a hug and we chatted for a few minutes. We hadn’t seen each other for many years. She said I reminded her of Allison Krause. I let her know how happy I was for her and how much I enjoyed the concert and after that we moved on so they could greet other fans. I knew music was her joy. You could see it in her eyes and the smile on her face. As they produced CD’s, I enjoyed listening to her music. When Joey and Rory performed on Can You Duet, I cheered them on.
When Rory began his blog, I loved reading his posts. They give you a glimpse into their life. After Indy was born, he opened up about their home birth and the fact that Indy has Down’s and how difficult it was for Joey. I felt a connection and wanted to give her a great big hug and tell her it would all be ok. I am different and I’m thankful. I knew then Indy would bring so much joy to their life. Then came the cancer diagnosis. That diagnosis came at the same time two other ladies I knew were diagnosed. I prayed. I believed she would be ok. And she was…for a while. I was so happy to see Indy’s personality developing and knowing all would be ok. Until it wasn’t. I think every mom’s nightmare is either something will happen to her children or she won’t be there to watch them grow up. My mom had cancer when I was 14. I remember that feeling of not knowing. Being scared. My mom lived until I was 29. Honestly there is never an easy time to lose a parent.
Joey’s story seems unfair in so many ways. She and Rory are so loving. They have a great story. They have had great success. They have three beautiful daughters. Why them? I honestly don’t know. Joey lost her brother at a very young age. It just seems so unfair for one family to suffer the loss of two children. In difficult times we often use the “everything happens for a reason” line. But at church we had an entire sermon series on these common things people say to try to make someone feel better during hard times. The Bible does not support many of the lines we use. What I do know is she is ready to go Home, to her eternal home. That brings peace to my heart. Those left behind, there are no words that can ease that loss. The emptiness. What I am thankful for is the life Joey has lived. She truly is a wonderful person and will leave behind a legacy. If we can learn from Joey, let’s learn to love more. To honor God. To live simply. To live life to the fullest. To go after your dreams.
My prayers are with Joey, Rory, their girls, the Martins, and all the family, friends, and millions of fans. She truly has lived a great life in her short 40 years. May God richly bless her. May all those left behind be forever changed having known her.