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Lorrie Morgan talks about late husband, Keith WhitleyCountry Music

By JIM LEWIS

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Lorrie Morgan will grieve for the rest of her life about the tragic death of husband Keith Whitley.

But she knew Whitley's addiction to alcohol was 'always a ticking timebomb.'

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In her only interview since the budding country music superstar died of alcohol abuse May 9, she said she is certain if she had been home that fateful day, her husband would not have died.

As it turned out, Whitley had seen his wife to the airport for a promotion trip to Alaska and he gave her a greeting card. It was not unusual for Whitley to give her a card, but Morgan said its contents were 'spooky' in the light of what happened three days later.

'When I read the card on the way back home, I felt like he was trying to tell me something,' she said.

Its message sounded like a farewell.

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'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.'

Morgan was composed during the interview and spoke candidly.

'Everybody needs a grieving period. In my case if I dwelled too much, it would be too hard to get out of it. There are going to be times when I'll say, 'Lord I wish I wasn't here. I wish I wasn't working. I wish I could just sit at home.''

Instead of staying at home doing nothing, Morgan was on the road less than a week after burying Whitley with a tour to Topeka, Kan., Sioux City, Iowa, and Bismark, N.D.

'Being on the bus I think is going to help me to put things in perspective and to realize a lot of things I haven't realized yet,' she said.

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Asked if she feared Whitley might kill himself with alcohol, she replied:

'When I first got together with Keith three years ago I was told of his problem from his manager Don Light. I'd been around alcoholism throughout my life. 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.

'If someone wasn't around him taking care of him all the time it would happen. It was like a ticking timebomb. I knew all this going into the relationship. 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.

'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. We were together 24 hours a day. Then all of a sudden there was somebody there at the house I didn't know. I am thankful for those three years, as hard as the bad times were. In those three years I've never in my life known love like Keith Whitley showed me. A lot of people never experience that. That was a liftime feeling.

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'Keith treated me like queen. In the three years we were married, he never said one ugly word to me, never raised his voice. We had disagreements and arguments but he was so gentle and caring. As much as I had to take care of him, he took care of me in other ways. I might never have that again, but I had it once in a lifetime.'

She said Whitley could only go so long without drinking. 'Nobody, me, any clinic, any psychiatrist he went to could help him. The sad thing was he didn't want to do it. It wasn't like a wild hair, like he needed to get drunk. He could be totally happy and the next day be drinking. It's a real scary thing.'

But life goes on and her first RCA album has been released.

It's full of songs that have totally new meaning since her husband's death. Instead of divorce, or broken relationships, Morgan feels the immense permanent loss.

'They are timely now,' she said referring to 'Trainwreck Of Emotion,' 'I'll Take The Memories,' and 'Gonna Keep The Light On.'

'I'll be interpreting these songs differently now.'

She said the most difficult part of the entire experience is the couple's 2-year-old son, Jesse Keith.

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'This morning he said, 'See Daddy?' It just kills me. I say he's in heaven singing to Jesus. Jesse lived to see Keith's bus. He used to ride him on his Harley. Those are the things nobody else can do.'

Morgan said she has gotten thousands of letters and numerous flowers sent since Whitley's death.

'I feel guilty not being there. But if it had not been this time, it would have been the next time. I know that Keith lived with pain and hurt and confusion in his life and now he doesn't have any. He's the best country singer that ever walked the face of this earth.'

Fortunately for his many fans, Whitley had already completed work on a new album to be released later this year and Lorrie Morgan said it is his best work yet.

But she knew Whitley's addiction to alcohol was 'always a ticking timebomb.'

In her only interview since the budding country music superstar died of alcohol abuse May 9 (which was coincidentally Morgan's 30th birthday), she said she is certain if she had been home that fateful day, her husband would not have died.

As it turned out, Whitley had seen his wife to the airport for a promotion trip to Alaska and he gave her a greeting card. It was not unusual for Whitley to give her a card, but Morgan said its contents were 'spooky' in the light of what happened three days later.

Advertisement

'When I read the card on the way back home, I felt like he was trying to tell me something,' she said.

Its message sounded like a farewell.

'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.'

Morgan was composed during the interview and spoke candidly.

'Everybody needs a grieving period. In my case if I dwelled too much, it would be too hard to get out of it. There are going to be times when I'll say, 'Lord I wish I wasn't here. I wish I wasn't working. I wish I could just sit at home.''

Instead of staying at home doing nothing, Morgan was on the road less than a week after burying Whitley with a tour to Topeka, Kan., Sioux City, Iowa, and Bismark, N.D.

Advertisement

'Being on the bus I think is going to help me to put things in perspective and to realize a lot of things I haven't realized yet,' she said.

Asked if she feared Whitley might kill himself with alcohol, she replied:

'When I first got together with Keith three years ago I was told of his problem from his manager Don Light. I'd been around alcoholism throughout my life. 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.

'If someone wasn't around him taking care of him all the time it would happen. It was like a ticking timebomb. I knew all this going into the relationship. 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.

'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. We were together 24 hours a day. Then all of a sudden there was somebody there at the house I didn't know. I am thankful for those three years, as hard as the bad times were. In those three years I've never in my life known love like Keith Whitley showed me. A lot of people never experience that. That was a liftime feeling.

Advertisement

'Keith treated me like queen. In the three years we were married, he never said one ugly word to me, never raised his voice. We had disagreements and arguments but he was so gentle and caring. As much as I had to take care of him, he took care of me in other ways. I might never have that again, but I had it once in a lifetime.'

She said Whitley could only go so long without drinking. 'Nobody, me, any clinic, any psychiatrist he went to could help him. The sad thing was he didn't want to do it. It wasn't like a wild hair, like he needed to get drunk. He could be totally happy and the next day be drinking. It's a real scary thing.'

But life goes on and her first RCA album has been released.

It's full of songs that have totally new meaning since her husband's death. Instead of divorce, or broken relationships, Morgan feels the immense permanent loss.

'They are timely now,' she said referring to 'Trainwreck Of Emotion,' 'I'll Take The Memories,' and 'Gonna Keep The Light On.'

'I'll be interpreting these songs differently now.'

She

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