Beloved country singer Joey Feek was laid to rest at the Pottsville, Tennessee, farm she shared with her husband, Rory, and daughter, Indiana. The private service took place on Tuesday with the family's closest friends, family, and neighbors in attendance. One of those close friends was gospel music icon Bill Gaither. Gaither spoke exclusively with PEOPLE following the funeral and shared details about the beautiful yet heartbreaking day.
"It was tearful, but it was optimistic, especially being on the dirt," Gaither said. "She was part of the earth. We all felt as though we were close to her."
A horse-drawn carriage transported Joey's casket to it's final resting place in the Feek Family Cemetery located on the couple's farm...the same farm from which trees were harvested to build her custom, hand-built casket per her request. Rory shared a photo of where Joey was to be buried on Sunday (March 6).
Rory spoke about his wife at a memorial service prior to the burial. "Singers were performing 'Let's Go Down to the River to Pray,'" says Gaither. "It was just a sweet Tennessee mountain moment. Very positive things were said at the gravesite."
Bill Gaither also shared that while it's just been a week since Joey's death, Rory is thinking to the future and making plans for the couple's 2-year old daughter.
"I talked to him last night about the service, and I said, 'First, Rory – how are you doing?' and he said, 'Well, I took Indiana to the school this morning to enroll her,'" shared Gaither. "He said, 'This is the first day of the rest of my life. I have responsibilities.'"
During the course of Joey's cancer battle, Rory Feek wrote often about Bill Gaither who is a pillar in the southern gospel community. Gaither has known Joey's family for years as the two families share a hometown of Alexandria, Indiana. Gaither spent a lot of time with Joey during her final months, visiting her nearly every day when he wasn't on the road.
"We’ll get a knock on the door in the morning or early afternoon, and next thing you know Bill will be parked in a chair beside Joey’s bed, telling her jokes and stories about days long-past and he’ll have Joey and all of us laughing and smiling ’til our faces hurt," Rory wrote in January.
Bill Gaither will be hosting a public memorial service for Joey in Alexandria, Indiana, on Sunday where Joey's family and Rory are expected to speak. "It's a special way for the family to say thanks to the community and for the community to love on the family," says Gaither.
If you are unable to attend the service, but would like to show your support for Joey+Rory, the family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to Joey and Indy at P.O. Box 5471, Vancouver, WA 98668.
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