Rory Feek Remembers Life with Joey

In 2013, a good friends of Joey’s wrote a song called "When I’m Gone".  It was a song written from the perspective of someone who is dying telling the person they loved that he or she would be okay.  “It was a song that we loved,” says Rory.  “In the video, we painted a picture of a world where I am living here alone and Joey is buried in that very grove of sassafras trees in the back field.”  When they shot the video, Joey is singing the song to Rory, but he wasn’t a fan of that idea.  It struck too close to home.  Rory decided that the song might help others and so they both imagined what it would be like if Joey left this world and Rory was left behind to carry on.  Two years later, after giving birth to their daughter Indiana, Joey was diagnosed with cervical cancer and passed away in March 2016.  “Life imitating art, I think they call it,” he says.  The video is hard for Rory to watch but he actually still does.  “I can’t help but see the irony in it,” he says.  “We recorded a song and made a make-believe video that came true in real life.”  Still he believes nothing happens by chance.  “In my opinion, God knew,” says Rory.  “And He wanted us to know He knew. I think in the end, He wanted me to have Joey singing to me.  Sharing the words that He knew I would need to hear from her, for years and years to come.”  Their story went viral on Facebook and touched millions of lives.  

Rory grew up in a poor family.  “It never occurred to me that we had it bad,” he says.  His dad left the family and his mom fled from state to state, doing the best she could.  “Sometimes we’d find ourselves packing up and leaving in the middle of the night so our landlord couldn’t catch us,” says Rory.  (In 2001, his mom realized her life was at a dead end.  At age 60, she enrolled in a local community college and graduated with an associate’s degree two years later!)  At 17 Rory joined the Marines.  He met his 2 older daughters’ mom in California.  In 1989, Rory found himself stationed in Hawaii with full custody of his two girls.  “The three of us became a family unit for the next 12 years until Joey would walk into my life and theirs and showed us once and for all what real love was,” he says.

In 1994, Rory moved to Nashville.  At the time, Rory knew he needed to get his life together but had no idea how.  He had been going to church on and off for years, had given his life to Christ and even got baptized. Rory’s career was taking off and the money from his first hit song bought him a farmhouse, but he was still struggling with giving God control over his life.  Once when he was close to surrendering, Rory could feel a fight going on between good and evil.  Late one night he got in his car and cried out to God.  Part of him wanted to start walking a new path; another part of him wanted to take off.  He got on a bus out of town, but then he thought of his girls.  Rory took another bus back to Nashville.  “I could feel something rising inside of me.  I wasn’t sure what it was, but it felt like hope,” says Rory.  “Whatever it was, it was powerful and it was real.  And it’s made all the difference in my life.”

Rory met Joey in 2000.  “I knew this relationship was different,” he says.  They married 2 months after getting engaged in June 2002.  Joey, then 26, and Rory, then 37, wanted to honor God so they waited until they were married to consummate their relationship.  In 2011, Joey encouraged Rory to start writing about their lives in a blog to capture moments in their family for some reason which he couldn’t understand.  “I had no earthly idea how important it would be to me. To Joey. And to the whole world.”

Mentioned in the Video

Guest Info


Premiere songwriter whose hits include: Blake Shelton’s Some Beach, Easton Corbin’s A Little More Country Than That, Clay Walker’s The Chain of Love

Other songs recorded by Kenny Chesney, Randy Travis, Reba, Trish Yearwood, Waylon Jennings, etc.

Half of the Grammy-winning country music duo Joey + Rory who toured the world, sold thousands of records, and had a weekly hit TV show that airs across the country on RFD-TV

Their latest album: Hymns That Are Important To Us sold 70,000 copies the first week and debuted #1 on Billboard album sales

Author This Life I Live, Nelson 2017

3 children


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