The single father wanted to make sure that his daughter was raised just like his late wife wanted to. So, he made a few changes and did what she wanted.
When we fall in love, get married, and eventually have a child, we imagine our little universe to be the happiest throughout our life. The daily struggles and joys become integral to our perfect universe but sometimes when tragedy strikes, we are left scrambling. When you lose a spouse, you lose a part of yourself and if you have a child, you have to pick up the pieces of your heart and get yourself together much before you've given yourself the time to heal.
For Singer Rory Feek of the duo Rory+Joey, the greatest heartbreak of his life was when he lost his other half, Joey, to cancer in 2016. He had three children, including his youngest, Indiana, who was only two years old at the time. It is not uncommon for parents to find raising a child with Down Syndrome daunting, but at no point did Indiana's father think less of her for being born different. If anything, Rory's bond with his youngest made him realize how amazing his late was truly was.
The father of three daughters blogs about his life with his youngest daughter and shared that she was a gift to him, and to his late wife. "Watching her sit up, look around, then roll back over... and listening to her talk to herself and her hands, I'm reminded what a gift she is. What a gift she's been to me. And to Joey," he wrote on his blog, This Life to Live.
When they first learned that their child would be born with Down Syndrome, the couple was confused about how it would impact their lives. When he told others about it, they would respond with an "I'm so sorry," which confused Feek further. However, he understood where they were coming from. "That's the messaging that is out there most I think. But it's wrong. At least I think it is. And I know Joey did too. God doesn't make mistakes. Indiana is not less than any other child. Different is not less," he said.
Eventually, the couple figured out how they wanted to raise their daughter and it was mostly Joey's planning, who wanted Indiana home-schooled. However, when they realized that Joey wouldn't be part of their life forever, they were devastated.
"Joey’s plan had always been to home-school Indy. To raise and teach her at home. Not just how to read and write, but more importantly, to be part of molding her character and faith and help her become all that she can be, especially since she was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth. But now, it was clear that we would have to come up with a different plan," he wrote for Today.
To make sure that she is forever a part of their lives even though she's gone, the 58-year-old dad made a film about his wife. While putting the film together, he found more facets of his late wife than he wasn't aware of earlier.
"My wife is even more incredible than I thought or knew she was. She was so full of light and so filled with life... even when she was dying. Her smile was more beautiful, her voice sweeter and her love for Indiana was even greater than I remembered," he wrote in his blog.
He wanted to honor her wishes of raising her at home, but knew that it wasn't possible for him to do it alone. So, he built a one-room schoolhouse in his farm which is close to his family cemetery where his wife lies. Around a dozen children, including Indiana, go to the Hardison Mill School, and her father has to walk only three minutes to be able to reach her whenever he needs to.