By Leticia Velasquez, co-founder, KIDS (Keep Infants with Down Syndrome)
Editor’s note. World Down Syndrome Day is observed annually on March 21 to raise public awareness of and about Down syndrome.
On March 4, the world of pop culture mourned the passing of Joey Feek. She was a country duet singer with her husband Rory, a TV and radio host, a mother of a child with Down syndrome, and, a woman who just gave the world an unforgettable lesson about the love of family, and death with true dignity.
Married in 2006, Rory and Joey achieved fame on the Country Music Television singing competition “Can You Duet?” in 2008. Their first album, topped the Billboard Top Country Albums chart in March.
The Feeks earned three nominations, including new artist of the year, during the 2010 Academy of Country Music Awards and won the Top New Vocal Duo of the Year award. The couple hosted a weekly television show on RFD-TV or on their radio show that aired on WSM-AM before the Grand Ole Opry, or through their farmhouse concerts.”
Rory, a talented writer, writes a blog This Life I Live, where he chronicled the tragic story of Joey’s diagnosis two years ago with cervical cancer, the decline of her health as the cancer spread, and her subsequent death on March 4. Joey was 40 years old.
The love within the Feek family as Joey bravely faced her death has attracted worldwide admiration. But that love did not begin with a diagnosis of cancer. It was there from the start, and showed most powerfully at their surprise when their daughter Indiana was born with Down syndrome.
Rory wrote, “It has been confirmed that Indiana has Down syndrome. Although that news came at first as a surprise to us, Joey and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. We trusted that God would give us the baby He wanted us to have… and He has. Out of all the parents in the world, He has chosen us to care for and raise this special gift. The baby is healthy and doing wonderful and Joey and I are loving each and every minute that we have with her. We can’t wait to see where this new chapter in our lives leads us and what wonderful story unfolds in the coming years.”
For Every Mom Blogger Jenny Repson was inspired by the Feeks example after Indiana’s birth, “Their advocating for special needs and showing Indiana’s beauty and the joy she brought to their lives during this cancer battle truly brought some much-needed awareness and positivity in the fight to include people with special needs and highlight their importance to the body of Christ.”
Joey‘s greatest regret at her diagnosis was that she would not be able to raise the couple’s daughter. At one point, she wept and said, “I want to raise our baby!”
Joey took every opportunity to be a mama to Indiana while she could, making videos and recordings so that Indiana would remember her, including the recently released album entitled; “Hymns That Are Important to Us.”
The blog and its videos were shared widely on the Internet and she inspired thousands. Yet, in the end, Joey’s bravest witness is in her peaceful death at home. Her husband Rory wrote on their blog, “My wife’s greatest dream came true today. She is in Heaven.”
March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day in which the gifts of those with Down syndrome are celebrated. A bill has been sent to Indiana Governor Mike Pence that would make his state the second to ban abortions for Down syndrome.