Come July it will have been two years since Randy Travis' release from The Heart Hospital Baylor in Plano following heart failure and a subsequent stroke requiring surgery, and he's been seldom seen since then. His cameo at Sunday night's Academy of Country Music Awards at AT&T Stadium came as a surprise; even bigger was was news of his March marriage to Mary Davis, performed by Pastor Tommy Nelson of the Denton Bible Church. The couple was engaged long before Travis was hospitalized.
The couple has planned on getting married before the stroke, but since then, Nelson tells The Dallas Morning News, they've "kinda been surviving" as Travis rehabs his body and his voice. As Nelson puts it, the couple "got completely held up" as they headed for the altar. Last month, he says, they decided it was finally time to get hitched.
"There's nothing that's harder than a stroke," says Nelson. "It's tougher than a heart attack, tougher than cancer. So we get together and pray together once a week. And they said, 'It's time -- we're over the hill, and we can see the other side. He can walk -- kinda slow -- and can begin to communicate -- again, kinda slow. But we got together and had a little three-person wedding with a photographer -- real small."
Says Nelson, "We prayed together, and when I gave him his vow, I said, 'Will you love Mary as long as old men sit and talk about the weather?' He said, 'I will.' And when I gave Mary her vows, I said, 'Will you love Randy as long as old women sit and talk about old men?' It's rare you get married to the song you've written, but he did. So they exchanged their vows and took off to a honeymoon of barbecue."
Travis actually has a new album in stores today: On the Other Hand: All the Number Ones, a greatest-hits package featuring, of course, the song that features the couple's wedding vows, "Forever and Ever, Amen." But it remains far from certain whether Travis will ever be able to record another record. In a letter posted to his website late Sunday, Travis says he's working "through music/speech/occupational/physical therapy."
Still, he remains hopeful: "It is my prayer that, with continued healing, one day soon, I will be back on that stage exchanging music with my fans ... my friends, who with God's amazing grace, have brought me this far."
Says Nelson,"You can sing along, and he can hum right along with you. Making the words, he's working on that. But the artistry of singing is right there. I sat down one day, and they said, 'Listen to this,' and they played a tape of him singing 'How Great Thou Art.' It was slower, sure, but he went right along. Whatever it is within him that keeps time, that keep tunes, is right there, untouched."