Keith Whitley and Lorrie Morgan were a country music power couple in the late ’80s.
The two were married in 1986, until Keith’s tragic passing in 1989 from alcohol poisoning at the young age of 33.
Though Lorrie was initially warned about Keith’s alcohol problems by his manager, Don Light, she hoped against her better judgement that her love for him would be enough to help him overcome his struggles:
“I thought as much as I loved Keith, surely that would help him. I feel in my own heart I kept Keith alive a lot longer because I was there all the time. I put everything on the back burner, including my career, to help Keith.
I never, never expected anything as bad as Keith had it. I thought it would just take love and someone to help him to get through with it.
He wanted it that way. But something inside of him wouldn’t let him. It literally was like he had cancer and could not control.”
She always knew in the back of her mind that he was “a ticking time bomb”, and she lived in constant fear that something bad would happen to him:
“Every time the phone would ring it was in the back of my mind that there was somebody calling to tell me he’s been in a wreck or died of alcohol.
It was a living hell. I was on pins and needles when he was on the road. We had six great months of nothing but pure ecstasy. It was a heavenly marriage and home.”
On May 9th, 1989, the day he passed away, he had taken Lorrie to the airport to see her off on a promotional trip to Alaska. He gave her a hand-written letter before he left her there, which was not all that uncommon or out of character for him.
What he wrote to her, though, was almost like a farewell note.
When she read it again on the way home, in retrospect, she felt like he was trying to tell her something.
And it’s the most beautifully heartbreaking thing you might ever read:
“Would you like to know what I wish for you? If I could have any wish I wanted, this is my wish:
That in your life which is so precious to me, may worries, troubles and problems never linger. May they only make you that much stronger and able and wise.
May you rise each day with sunlight in your heart, success in your path, answers to your prayers, and that smile that I always love to see in your eyes. I love you, Keith.”
Okay, I’m gonna go cry for the rest of the day now…
And if you really wanna get in your feelings, check her out singing his stunning hit “Don’t Close Your Eyes” not too long after he passed away.
Written by Bob McDill, Keith released it as the third single from his album of the same name in 1988, and it peaked at #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
You can just hear the pain in her voice and she does such a beautiful job with this sweet tribute to her late husband, whom she lovingly calls “the best country singer that ever walked the face of this earth.”