By JAY POWELL
Country duo Joey+Rory Feek captured the world’s attention as popular songwriters and TV personalities, but everything changed in 2014 when the couple received devastating news.
Joey Feek was diagnosed at that time with stage four cervical cancer and despite moving to Atlanta and having a radical hysterectomy, multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and a lot of praying, the diagnosis was ultimately terminal after an Oct. 2015 scan.
She decided to stop treatments that same month and is now under hospice care in Indiana. Feek is always surrounded by friends and spends her remaining days with her husband and daughter, Indiana, by her side. The couple also receives many letters and gifts from fans that come pouring in daily.
“Me and Rory talk every day and I’ve been trying to go as much as I can,” Marcy Gary, Rory Feek’s sister, said. “Their living room is full right now of just presents and get well cards, and it’s just incredible the outpouring of love from people. We get a UPS guy at our house about five times a day.”
The Feeks own a farm in Pottsville, where they performed monthly barn house concerts and shot their TV show, “The Joey + Rory Show,” which airs on RFD TV and Gaither TV. There is even a special cemetery there where Joey plans to be buried after she passes, Gary said.
Joey Feek and Gary opened an eatery, Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse, on the corner of Highway 99 and 431 in 2006.
Gary still runs the cafe and bakery from a building built in 1891 as a general store, where she says everything is made from scratch. It is also featured on “The Joey + Rory Show.” Since Joey Feek can no longer work, the restaurant is now open Thursdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The restaurant has been a big success, Gary said, attracting visitors from all over the world, but it still retains the “at-home” feel of an old country cafe, with signs, pictures and antique fixtures on every wall, and it’s the kind of place where everybody knows your name.
“I’ve worked in the restaurant business my whole life, either as a waitress, dishwasher, a cook, and I’ve always wanted to open up my own restaurant. So when I saw this I loved it,” she said. “We worked on it for about six months, and then we just opened it up and kept it going. And there’s people from all over the world that come here, which is amazing.”
Joey+Rory released a new album and DVD on Friday, “Hymns &Stories That Are Important To Us,” which is a collection of their all-time favorite gospel hymns.
“Getting this project made was important to Joey. And I think that’s what gave her the energy and strength to see it all the way through,” Rory Feek wrote Friday on his blog, “This Life I Live.” “Yesterday Joey and I looked at the CD together and talked about how beautiful it is and how if the taping had been a week later… it wouldn’t have happened. It couldn’t have.”
The live DVD is narrated and directed by gospel singer Bill Gaither. The album and DVD are available at Marcy Jo’s and at Cracker Barrel stores across the U.S.
“This is a very personal collection of hymns that are important to them and have strengthened them through life’s toughest challenges,” Gaither said. “This musical celebration shows us that sometimes our lives start catching up with the lyrics, and we realize this is ‘life stuff’ and it’s very important.”
The film captures a special performance on the couple’s farm in front of a live audience. They not only bring a lively and emotional celebration of songs, but share stories and memories about times they were most grateful, and how love and song brought strength and positivity through life’s hurdles.
“I do think that there’s something about having those kinds of songs inside of you, that information inside of you that you can pull from when times are hard,” Rory Feek said.
“I didn’t learn anything until I was much older in life, and these kinds of songs weren’t part of my life growing up. I didn’t have much to draw from, and maybe it could have kept me out of a lot of trouble I was in. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m most excited to sing them to Indy.”
One of the more touching moments in the film is when they bring an infant Indy onstage to join in a thumping rendition of “Jesus Loves Me.”
“There’s something that makes me smile, that gives me a tear in my eye to know just how much you are loved and how much we have been given,” Joey Feek said. “A lot has taken place in a year’s time, but these songs have given me such strength. They’ve given me such hope, and they’ve given me something to look forward to.”
The couple is also nominated for a Grammy Award in the Vocal Duo of the Year category for their version of the song, “I Needed You,” which was recorded to celebrate the day their daughter was born and was used as the background song to her birth video. Indiana, or Indy for short, will be celebrating her second birthday on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
Feek posts regularly to his blog at www.thislifeilive.com. He shares frequent updates on Joey Feek’s condition, reflections and stories of past memories, and the many milestones in life they continue to face together.
He also recently wrapped production of a Civil War-era film, “Josephine,” which he wrote with friend Aaron Carnahan. The film is inspired by a song he wrote after discovering letters from a Civil War soldier to his wife.
Rory Feek’s latest blog post discussed his Valentine’s Day plans to spend with his wife. He wrote about how special the day is to him because it was when they had their first date in 2002.
He originally wanted to bring her outdoors to enjoy a campfire, but explained that Joey was just too ill. So instead, he chose to “hold her hand and take her on a ‘virtual’ walk down memory lane together … with pictures and videos on my laptop.”
“I want to take her back to where our lives first began together, and relive this beautiful journey that God has taken us on,” He wrote. “From that first song she heard me sing at the Bluebird Café, to the last one we sang together as we stood on stage and took our final bow … to the songs that she will leave behind here on earth and the ones she will soon sing for eternity to our sweet Lord in that heavenly choir up yonder.”- The Daily Herald Via Google