Jessi Colter Shares Heartwarming Story Of Waylon Jennings’ Last Thanksgiving

Jessi Colter Shares Heartwarming Story Of Waylon Jennings’ Last Thanksgiving | Classic Country Music | Legendary Stories and Songs Videos

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Jessi Colter opens up about her husband Waylon Jennings’ last Thanksgiving and how it changed his life.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, many of us will take a moment to contemplate our blessings, embracing both the highs and lows of life, as the essence of the holiday encourages. It’s a time for sharing food, laughter, and stories.

Beyond expressing gratitude for the current relationships in our lives, a significant number of us have experienced celebrating such occasions without a cherished loved one to create new memories with. Jessi Colter intimately understood this experience when she faced the loss of her husband, Waylon Jennings, in February of 2002 due to complications from diabetes.

In an extensive feature in the November edition of Guideposts Magazine in 2017, Jessi candidly shared a deeply personal story, in her own words, recounting Waylon’s last Thanksgiving and how it ultimately transformed his life.

Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter.
Waylon Jennings / Facebook

Confined to the hospital for additional procedures, none of which proved effective in halting his deteriorating health, Jessi remembers Waylon’s last Thanksgiving. Diabetes, heart troubles, neuropathy—each had exacted its toll. The realization lingered: Now was the opportune moment to speak to him, to engage in the conversation that had been on Jessi’s mind for years.

Waylon’s Struggle with Substance Abuse and His Journey to Sobriety

Waylon faced a well-known battle with drugs throughout a significant portion of his life, ultimately overcoming the challenge by abruptly quitting.

Jessi expressed her profound love for “everything” about Waylon, with one exception…

“I loved everything about this man…well, almost everything. I loved watching him sing, how he led his band, how he interacted with fans. I loved his sincerity. But the one thing I couldn’t abide was his addiction to amphetamines. Diet pills, pep pills, Speckled Birds or L.A. Turnarounds (so-called because, as he said, ‘You could take one and drive to Los Angeles, turn around and come straight back’).”

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: (AUSTRALIA OUT) USA Photo of Waylon JENNINGS, - (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)
GAB Archive / Redferns / Getty Images

She says she prayed for his sobriety, waited, and prayed more.

Eventually, in March of 1984, Waylon decided that he wanted to stop doing drugs on his own. They rented a house out in the Arizona desert, canceled everything on the calendar, and camped out there while Waylon came off of all of the drugs:

“The ordeal was painful, physically and emotionally. Every bone in Waylon’s body screamed out in anguish. Later he wrote how my presence, my prayers, made a difference. Somehow he quit on his own and managed to stay sober the rest of his life.”

Jessi also importantly noted of the ordeal:

“Let me be clear: I do not consider Waylon’s way to sobriety a template for others. I would never encourage anyone to rely, as he did, on sheer willpower. It can be a recipe for disaster. I thank God that Waylon made it work. And that I knew enough to stay out of the way.”

Waylon Finds Salvation On Thanksgiving

Flash forward to Thanksgiving day in 2001, Jessi felt in her heart the time had come for a very real and honest conversation she’d wanted to have with him for many years. Being that they were married for over 30 years, Waylon always knew when Jessi had something on her mind:

“‘Looks like you want to say something to me, darlin’,’ he said from his hospital bed. ‘If you’ve got something to say, go ahead and say it.’ Waylon sensed what was happening. He always did. Finally, I said it.

‘Are you ready to accept the Lord?’ He grinned. ‘I knew you were going to ask that.’ ‘It’s a simple question. It all comes down to one thing. Are you ready to be God’s man?’ He nodded and kept repeating, ‘God’s man.’ Then he said, ‘To become God’s man, what do I need to say?’”

‘That you accept Jesus, that you love him as he loves you, that you turn your life over to him.’”

Right then and there, he did, and Jessi shared the beautiful moment they shared together in that hospital room:

“Waylon said those words. I wept. He took my hand and said, ‘I love you so much.’ He had declared his love for me a million times before, but this time his tone was so vulnerable, so soft, so sweet. His sincerity thrilled my heart.”

According to Jessi, although her husband’s overall health showed no improvement in the subsequent months, after their Christmas gathering, where all their children and family were present, Waylon requested her to play the piano and sing the church hymns she had grown up with.

NASHVILLE - DECEMBER 9: Husband and wife country singers and songwriters Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter in their living room on December 9, 1987 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Beth Gwinn/Getty Images)
Beth Gwinn / Getty Images

Tragically, Waylon passed away on February 13th, 2002. Jessi discovered him unresponsive in their living room upon returning from a morning appointment. Paramedics attempted CPR, but it proved too late, and he had already passed away.

Despite Jessi’s candid admission that she had contemplated leaving him during the darkest period of his drug addiction, her profound love for the man she cherished above all else prevented her from witnessing his self-destruction. This unwavering love served as her driving force.

She consistently believed that the Lord was actively working to bring peace to her husband someday, expressing with poignant conviction:

“No one is ever totally gone. We leave our mark on the world, especially an artist like Waylon. And we leave our mark on the hearts of others…In the desert, Waylon kicked drugs. On the operating table, he survived surgery. That Thanksgiving, Waylon at last understood that he loved the Lord as the Lord loved him.”

If this isn’t a touching tale to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, it’s hard to imagine what could be.

Here’s a tribute to the late, great Waylon Jennings and the woman who played a pivotal role in saving him, Jessi Colter!

Listen to the couple sing, “I Ain’t The One,” written by Jessi Colter below.

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