Rory Feek Changes Singer-Songwriter’s Life By Honoring Joey Feek’s Final Request
After being diagnosed with terminal cancer in the summer of 2015, Joey Feek, as well as her Joey + Rory duo partner and husband, Rory Feek, knew her time was coming. So before Joey Feek passed away, she took great care to share her funeral wishes with her family, including details such as the wooden box she wanted their friend Thomas to build for her; the quilt she wanted to be buried in, made by her friend, Ms. Joan; and a simple service honoring her life, to be held in the Feeks' concert hall on their property. But the last thing Feek requested was a hymn, which she and her husband first heard while on their honeymoon in Montana.
"'I’d like for someone to sing the hymn "Leave It There" at my graveside,'" she requested, Rory Feek recounts on his blog, This Life I Live. "And then she stopped and added, 'No … not someone ... I want Bradley Walker to sing it for me.'"
With lines like, "When your body suffers pain, and your health you can’t regain / When your soul is slowly sinking in despair / Jesus knows the pain you feel / He can save and He can heal / Take your burden to the Lord, and leave it there," the song was a perfect fit for Joey Feek's memorial service -- and the perfect song for Walker to sing. He has muscular dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair, but Walker's disability has never discouraged him or prohibited him from pursuing his dreams of being an artist. He has sung at the Grand Ole Opry and rubbed elbows with some of country music's elite, including Brad Paisley, Vince Gill and Ricky Skaggs, among others. Walker has pursued his singing with a passion while juggling a full-time job; however, singing at Feek's funeral was the performance that changed the trajectory of his career.
"When Bradley sang "Leave It There" at Joey’s service that day, there were a lot of friends at her graveside. One of those was Bill Gaither," Rory Feek recounts. "And somewhere in the service I’m told … while Bradley’s deep baritone voice was singing my bride to heaven … Bill leaned over and asked someone, 'Who’s that?'"
Gaither is one of gospel music's most influential singers and songwriters, and the founder of the Gaither Music Company, the label that released Joey + Rory's last two albums, including their final project, Hymns That Are Important to Us. He and his wife Gloria are longtime friends of the Feeks, and visited Joey Feek several times during her illness.
"Barry and Paul, the guys that run the Gaither record label, were also at the service, and they too believed that they heard something special," Rory Feek continues. "Something the rest of the world needs to hear. So, in the past three months since then, I’ve had the privilege of helping Bradley record a whole album full of songs about his faith, and a few weeks ago, he even taped a television special on a specially built riser at the front of the stage in our barn. The stage that Joey and I sang on."
On Memorial Day weekend, Walker performed in front of 6,000 people at the annual Gaither Family Fest in Gatlinburg, Tenn., where he was introduced by Rory Feek. His album is due to be released this fall.
What's Next for Rory Feek?
5 Major Joey + Rory Career Milestones