On Tuesday we laid my beautiful wife to rest. In a grove of sassafras trees behind our farmhouse, with friends and family gathered around, we said goodbye to the greatest person I have ever known.
The service started in our barn/concert hall. The last time we were on that stage, was in early October and Joey and I were singing together. But now, a photograph of Joey was in the spotlight… and I was one of many who were there to honor her.
The Isaac’s sang “It Is Well With My Soul”.
Bill Gaither told stories of swans and deer and the sweet girl who looked out the window from her hospital bed and saw the beauty in life and also in death.
And the pastor who baptized Joey in her small hometown church in Indiana, Jerry Young… shared memories of Joey and the good news of the Gospel.
My sister Marcy and Joey’s best friend Julie and our manager Aaron all spoke and Sandy Lawrence somehow managed to sing “When I’m Gone”. When it came my time to speak, I walked up on the stage and stood looking at my wife’s sweet picture… and words were not enough to let her know how much she meant to me – how much she still means to me. .
And when my time was through and I thought I couldn’t cry anymore tears… they played a video celebrating Joey’s life that our friends Daniel and Gabe made. And my tears were replaced by smiles and laughter and joy and more tears. It was so beautiful, set to the song “After You’re Gone” by Iris Dement… a song that Joey loved and requested be played at her service.
Joey’s one hope was that she could “come home” on a beautiful day… and oh, it was. The daffodils were blooming, the grass was green and sky was bright blue.
As the guests made their way to the family cemetery behind our barn…
Eight angelic voices led a procession singing “Down By The River To Pray” all the way out to the family plot.
And a team of mules carried Joey’s simple wooden box in an 1800’s wagon with six of Joey’s favorite ‘cowboys’ by her side.
The family followed along behind the wagon. Indy on her papa’s shoulders.
At the gravesite, Mike Glenn – our pastor in Tennessee, spoke of the better place that Joey’s in and also of the better place that the world is because Joey was in it.
And he told us how we can all have a service like hers when it comes our time to go, with just as many people loving us as loved Joey. All we have to do he said… is live like she did.
And finally, the beautiful life that God had brought from the dust was returned to the dust…
When it was over, we all walked back to the farmhouse.
As two of Joey’s friends stayed behind to let her know they will be keeping her company from now on.
And we spent the afternoon a few steps from Joey’s garden, hugging and loving and celebrating the beautiful life she lived.
We saw some friends we haven’t seen in months.
And some others that we haven’t seen in years.
It was an afternoon filled with so much joy and love. Even our little Indiana had a wonderful time …
And when most of the guests had gone and the sun was starting to fade, Indy and I took the short walk together into the back field to see her mama one more time.
And we stayed awhile and talked with her.
And then we took a deep breath and did what Joey would want us to do.
We remembered that she’s still with us.
She’ll always be with us.
In our hearts.