Last fall, a long-awaited film came to select theaters for a one night showing: To Joey, With Love. It was the work of Joey Feek's husband, Rory, chronicling the last few years of her life. I'd followed their story ever since their daughter was born, and was totally immersed in the last few weeks of her life as Rory shared them with the world on his blog. And while I had read his many blogs and already watched his many short video clips throughout that time, I was anxious to see the project he worked so hard on through such a hard time. Along with half a dozen other moms from my Gigi's circle, I bought a ticket and saw it. In short, the film was amazing. Such a hard story, but it was laced so thoroughly with faith and love and God. I was so happy to hear they opened up another night at theaters, so I went again and invited a different circle of friends because I had to share this touching story with as many people as I could.
When they released the DVD over the holidays, I bought one for myself, one for my mom and one for my mother-in-law. Again...gotta share. Because life is busy, it took almost three months of owning the DVD before I was able to find a night when I could sit Lehr and the kids down to see it. That night finally happened earlier this week.
You'd think I would be able to make it through, having seen it twice already, without so much waterworks, but no. This film, and story, definitely has a cumulative effect on me. My first viewing had tears, the second had more, and the third...I even got to step out for 30 minutes to get Ruby to bed right at the point that things got really real, but I was still a mess the rest of the time.
Besides the obvious reasons for the connection - who can't or doesn't want to connect with a story of a husband and wife's beautiful love story and who hasn't been touched by loss - this film hit me in so many places that were unintentional. Like I said, I've followed this family since Indiana was born because she has Down syndrome. But this movie isn't about that at all, so I didn't expect to tap in to that portion of my emotions.
But watching the movie, watching the footage of Indiana at days old, weeks old, months old...it all was so familiar. SO familiar. From the confused parental grief to the adorable facial expressions to the similar mannerisms that I never realized might be part of Down syndrome and not just part of Ruby....everything hit oh-so close to home.
And here's the thing I realize every time I've seen this film. Ruby is more alike than different when it comes to her typical peers, when it comes to her siblings. But she is also very alike some of her friends in the Down syndrome community too, in ways I never realized. Now there are so many cool things I see in other babies that I recognize from Ruby's babyhood. The baby eyes that just search out connection and don't break your gaze. The desire to connect with every person around them, bringing new meaning to the term 'outgoing'. So many awesome similarities in the sweet way they interact with peers, in an incredibly empathetic way. Almost every scene in this film brought me back to Ruby's early days...
So there you go - you'd think I was getting paid for this pitch! I just can't say enough good about this film and the gift the Feek family was given in Joey, especially during this time with the recording of events.
**Sidenote: I'm now reading Rory's book, This Life I Live. If you enjoyed the movie at all, you will love this book. That guy can tell a story in such an easy, real way.