Rory Feek has stood on the Grand Ole Opry stage many times before, but something was different about his appearance there on Saturday night (September 24). For the first time ever, Rory stood on the Opry stage without Joey by his side.
In an emotional new post on his blog, This Life I Live, Rory wrote that the moment was “beautiful and surreal at the same time.” Rory was not there to perform, but rather, to introduce his friend Bradley Walker, who just released a new album and was performing that night.
Bradley had been friends with Joey + Rory for years, and once Joey knew her time on Earth was coming to an end she had a special request. She wanted Bradley to sing the hymn “Leave it There” at her funeral. He ended up doing just that, and caught the attention of gospel singer Bill Gaither and two men who worked for his record label.
Thanks to Joey’s wish, Bradley was able to release his new album, called Call Me Old Fashioned. He performed the album’s title track during his appearance at the Opry, with Rory introducing him to the crowd packed inside.
What Rory found truly special about his appearance at the Opry was the way the crowd reacted when he walked out on stage. He wrote that he was “floored” by the response he got, knowing it was all out of love for Joey:
“It wasn’t just the applause. It was how long it lasted and how many people rose to their feet before I could even say a word. I was floored. Joey and I had experienced moments like this before…but it was for a show we played or a song we sang. This was different. It was all for her. For us. For the journey that we had been on and the courage my wife had shown through it all. And I was honored. So honored to be there. To hear and feel the overwhelming volume of what sounded like applause, but what it really was…was love. It was beyond humbling.”
While Bradley sang, Rory watched from the wings of the stage and was once again humbled by the way the crowd reacted. When Bradley finished his song the crowd rose to its feet again, which left Rory feeling overwhelmed with emotion.
“I stood in the wings of the Opry stage with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes,” he said. “Knowing that Joey too was on her feet in heaven, leading a standing ovation of her own with angels above.”
We can’t imagine how hard it must have been for Rory to go to the Opry for the first time without Joey. But the way the audience reacted just goes to show how much of an impact she made on the world while she was here.