Last night, I spent the evening helping Indy write Valentines' cards for all her friends at school. They are having a little party in the concert hall this afternoon and she is so excited to give her cards to all the kids and to see the ones she gets in return.
Watching Indy write her name on the cards makes me think of all the Valentines' that her Mama and I shared together. There are many that I look back on fondly, but one in particular stands out above the rest... our last Valentine's Day together—February 14, 2016.
The bright candle that had been Joey's life was now burning low... and she, and I, knew that the long goodbye we had been blessed with, was nearly over. But still, we wanted to do our best to make the day special and celebrate the love we share. So that evening, we both got dressed up and had flowers and everything all set up on her bedside table and we shared a romantic, candle-lit dinner alone together.
When dinner was through, Joey handed me a gift. A Valentine's card. It was to be the last note, the last written words, and the last card I would ever receive from her. Joey passed away just two weeks later.
It has been five years since that day. Five Valentine's Days, without her. So, so much has changed since then. And yet, in many ways, so much still seems the same. First off, I still feel like I'm married, and honestly, it's because I am. Because I still choose to be. I'm still strangely trying to work on being a better man and husband to her, even though she's not here to see it. And although she's not here physically, I can still feel her presence, in my heart. Like she's somehow beside me, championing me, and Indy. To find the good, even in the bad. To find the joy, even in the sorrow. For the most part, I am doing really well. If you know me, you'd know that I'm mostly filled with gratitude and have a very positive outlook on life pretty much every day. But from time to time, there are moments, sometimes even days, when the hurt creeps in, and as strong as I might think I am, I melt into a puddle of tears. I can't help but think it's a healthy thing. It means that you loved someone. That you still love them. That I still love her.
I recently found that card that Joey gave me, and for the first time since then, I read the words she wrote. And then... once again, I celebrated the love we had, without her. And yet, with her still.
That card was her Valentine's gift to me that year. This... is my Valentine's gift to her this year.
The song is an old one. It's one I wrote with Max D. Barnes twenty years or more ago, when I first bought the farmhouse and was trying to fix it up. Broken-hearted and lonely and afraid that I had made a terrible mistake. I'd pretty much forgotten about the song until my friends Ben Issacs and Matt Johnson picked it as one of the songs to record on the new album we've been making. They knew even before I did, that although the song had been written for another time, like the Bob Dylan song I shared last month... this one was also written for today. For where I am and what I've been through and am still experiencing.
The song is special to me for another reason too. Because although this is my first solo record without Joey... fortunately, I still don't have to sing by myself. Vince Gill is singing harmony with me on this song. Actually, on many of the songs we've recorded, other artists, friends, and even some heroes are singing with me. Besides Vince; Ricky Skaggs, Trisha Yearwood, Alison Krauss, Lee Ann Womack and a number of other wonderful singers are lending their voices and talents to this collection of stories in song.
And It was on that Valentine's Day, five years ago, that Joey's and my last album "Hymns" came out. Someone delivered the CD to the Gaither house we were staying in and Joey and I sat and read every word and listened to the whole album song by song together that day, feeling so blessed that it had come to be in time for her to see and hear it.
In the living room at our house is a framed front page from our local newspaper here in Columbia. They did a sweet story on us that Valentines day five years ago, even though we were still in Indiana and didn't know anything about it, that I am so proud of. Another special Valentines memory.
I'm gonna close this post so I can get my "little Valentine" off to school for her big day today.
Happy Valentine's Day to everyone.