What would you do if you were dying?
Would you choose to soak up the time you had left with your child?
Or would you try to pull back a bit, in the hope she wouldn’t miss you as much when you passed away?
American country singer Joey Feek probably never thought she’d have to contemplate such questions when she gave birth to her beautiful daughter, Indiana, who has Down syndrome, two years ago.
But shortly after Indy’s birth, Joey was given the devastating news she had cervical cancer. She was then told her cancer was terminal.
Last November, Joey made a heart-wrenching decision.
Her husband, Rory, wrote in a recent blog post that Joey “started going against everything in her being told her ‘time was short’ so hold her baby even tighter… and longer… and more… and instead – she handed the baby to me, and sat alone in a bed and watched and listened as my relationship with Indy grew … and hers lessoned [sic].”
Rory says Joey made this decision because, up until then, Joey had been Indy’s “whole world”.
“She loved her mama so much and all she wanted was to be with her, beside her or in sight of her.”
Instead of maintaining her close bond with her daughter in the months before her death, Joey decided to become “less” to her.
By doing so, she gave Rory the parenting reigns, and allowed him to take over and become “more”.
“I still remember the day a few weeks later when I was sitting on the couch near Joey’s bed and Indy was playing on the floor at my feet and Joey looked over at me and said, ‘she needs you now … ‘.
“I looked at Joey and saw the look on her face and knew what she meant, and I wanted to cry. But she just smiled and said, ‘… it’s best this way honey’.”
Understandably, not everybody would make the same decision. Many would choose to hold their children closer and cherish the little time they had left together.
That’s what 36 year-old mother of two, Ren, says she would do.
“I think I’d just love my babies as fiercely as possible and hope that the pain of their loss would one day pale in comparison to the feeling of being loved.”
Clinical psychologist Dr Lara Winten understands both reactions and is quick to note there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer in this situation.
She says it sounds like Joey made “an incredibly difficult parenting decision based on what [she] genuinely thought would be in the best interest of their daughter”.
Rory is certain that’s why Joey made her decision.
For Lee, a 48-year-old who was recently diagnosed with what she thought was life-threatening cancer, says it’s impossible to know how you’d react unless you’re in that situation.
“There is no way to understand what one faced with death feels, and judging from a place of health only adds to that distance,” the mother-of-three says.
While Rory wasn’t in his wife’s shoes, he is fairly adamant he wouldn’t have the “strength” to make the same choice she did. “I would’ve taken the low, easy road … the one that served me more,” he wrote.
“I would’ve tried to make the ties with our baby stronger and her love for me deeper so that she wouldn’t forget me … and in the end, probably left our baby wrecked with grief over the loss of the one person she loved and needed most.
“But not Joey. She let Indy fall more in love with me … and less in love with her. She carried the pain on her own shoulders, to try to keep it off of mine. And even more so, off of Indy’s.”
Joey’s plan worked so well that Rory says his little girl has barely been affected by her mother’s death on March 4th this year.
“Indy has not asked for her mama. Not one single time since Joey’s been gone,” Rory wrote.
“And that is so sad… and oh, so wonderful – all at the same time.”