More than a month after Randy Travis suffered a near-fatal stroke in 2013, doctors were not hopeful about his recovery. Complications were piling up, including a collapsed lung and infections, and the country star was in a near-comatose state. His doctors told his then-girlfriend that it would be a matter of time before his heart stopped.
Mary Travis, who would later marry Travis in 2015, described in his new memoir that she sat at his bedside and asked him if they should keep fighting. She said she saw a tear fall from his cheek.
“And the warrior that he is, he mustered up the strength to squeeze my hand,” Travis said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I was like, ‘We’re fighting this. He’s not ready to give up and we’re not giving up. The only person that’s going to take him out of this world is God.’”
Travis, who has aphasia, a condition that limits his ability to speak and give interviews, reveals his painful, months-long recovery from the stroke in the new memoir chronicling his rise to fame in candid detail. Called Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith and Braving the Storms of Life, the book reveals his highs and lows, from platinum albums and Grammy Awards, to his arrest for driving under the influence and his divorce from his previous wife and manager.
The Country Music Hall of Famer, who turned 60 in May when the book came out, ushered in a new wave of neo-traditionalism in the 1990s with hits like “Forever and Ever, Amen,” “On the Other Hand” and “Three Wooden Crosses.”
Mary Travis said they wanted to be honest with fans about his life.
“He felt like, ’cause he’s the one that ultimately made the decision after the survival of the stroke, it’s time to share these ups and downs,” she said.
Co-writer Ken Abraham explained that he studied Travis’ speaking style over years of interviews and tried to mimic the way Travis would write.
“I listened to everything I possibly could where Randy was speaking, on a TV interview, in a radio interview,” Abraham said. “Then I’d bring that back to Randy and Mary. ‘Does that sound like Randy? What I put into words, does that sound like Randy?’”
The North Carolina native hit it big with his multiplatinum 1986 album Storms of Life and went on to win seven Grammy Awards, in both country and gospel categories. He acted in movies and toured, but behind the scenes, the book said he was largely unaware of his financial situation because he left those decisions up to his wife and manager Elizabeth Hatcher-Travis.
They filed for divorce in 2010 after 19 years together, but it turned contentious, with lawsuits filed over his management contract. In the book, he compared her to Colonel Parker, Elvis Presley’s controversial manager.
For the first time publicly, the book addresses his 2012 arrest for driving under the influence, in which Travis, who was nude and intoxicated on sleeping pills and alcohol, crashed his car and was videotaped on police dash cam.
“It was moving forward and it was time for his story to be told his way, not through a tabloid,” Mary Travis said. “Because sometimes in your silence you’re misunderstood. So if you’re quiet then they just make up the story.”
In 2013, Travis was hospitalized due to viral cardiomyopathy, a virus that attacks the heart, and then suffered a stroke. Travis had to relearn how to walk, spell and read in the years since his stroke and he still struggles with aphasia. But in 2016 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and surprised the crowd by singing “Amazing Grace.”
“What Randy wants most is for that book to inspire people that maybe feel rejected or lonely, people are battling with things they don’t know how to understand,” Mary Travis said.