Dolly Parton On Navigating Loss And The Gospel Hymn That Helps Her Grieve

“You try to keep the good memories.”

Dolly Parton is no stranger to grief. The country legend lost three close friends in less than two years: Loretta Lynn, Noami Judd, and Kenny Rogers. 

Dolly Parton

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In a recent chat with Hoda Kotb on Today, Parton discussed what it’s been like to lose so many loved ones in close succession, and how she uses “good memories” to get her through the hard times. 

"With Loretta, she was very dear to me, like a sister," Parton said. "Same with Naomi. We were (the) same age, and we loved the same things. And I loved her. And then I also lost Kenny Rogers—three of my dearest people—in essence, in a very short period of time.”

"And I grieve over them almost like you do a family member,” she continued. “And I think of them, but you try to keep the good memories."

Lynn died in October at age 90, and Judd died in April at age 76. Rogers, her longtime friend and collaborator, died in March 2020 at 81 years old. Parton's brother Randy also died in January 2021. 

The songstress said she looks to one particular gospel hymn, “Precious Memories," to help her cope with the grief.

"The line I love in that song is, 'Precious memories, unseen angels sent from somewhere to my soul.' And I think about that. Those precious memories," she shared. "They just flow in and out of you, and you remember special things about them."

Parton added that their lingering presences in her memories feel "like unseen angels, and you feel like they’re still all around you."

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