Granger Smith Remembers Toby Keith, Announces Book About Coping With Loss

By Kelly Fisher

February 6, 2024

Photo: Getty Images

Granger Smith posted a video on his social media channels on Tuesday morning (February 6) as the country music community mourns the loss of legendary singer-songwriter Toby Keith. Keith, who was battling stomach cancer, “passed peacefully...surrounded by his family,” on Monday night (February 5), per a statement shared to his social media pages in the early morning hours. He was 62.

Smith posted his pre-planned announcement, revealing plans to release a new book for children and parents about navigating feelings of grief after loss. Smith — who announced last year that he would no longer tour with his music to pursue ministry instead — said in his post that it’s a “heavy morning with the announcement of losing a pillar in the country music community.

“I wasn’t expecting that news the same day I announce this news. But the Lord is sovereign and death is a reality we cannot avoid. In fact, it’s not helpful to avoid the conversation about death altogether but instead it’s good to process through death—and what comes afterwards,” Smith said. “I’m so grateful for the joy TK’s music brought so many of us for so many years. 🙏🏼 I hope it was not bad taste for me to announce a new book on this day.”

Smith said in the video he posted on Tuesday morning:

“I have had this planned for a while to make this announcement and tell you guys something I’m up to right now on February the 6th. It just so happens that this is the morning that we find out we lost country music legend Toby Keith. And so, that’s interesting because that’s what I wanna talk about. Whenever we experience loss or shock in this way, even with a country music legend, we have this tendency to look inward and to try to fortify ourselves so that we could be a rock as we’re processing our own mortality and thinking about how fragile life is. We think, ‘well, life is fragile. Life is fleeting. Life is a vapor, so I’m going to fortify myself and do everything I can to make myself stronger so that people could lean on me.’ Right? So that, ‘I could be the rock of the family.’ That’s the way I used to think. And it occurred to me, what does the rock lean on? And I realized, that’s just a really bad analogy. It was unhelpful for me to be thinking that way. So, then I started thinking, ‘well, maybe I should think more in terms of a tree.’ A tree that can be strong, but it bends. It loses limbs occasionally. It’ll lose its leaves every season, and a tree has roots that grow gown and intertwines with other trees in the forrest. It gets its nutrients from the ground, and it absorbs the water that it needs from the ground. But then, the more I thought about that analogy, I thought, ‘well, if I’m a tree, and I do get my nourishment from the roots from people around us,’ a tree never focuses on the ground. In fact, it dies if it focuses on the ground. A tree only survives if it reaches up, always up toward the light. And that analogy is — there’s a parallel story to that in my book, Like A River, but today, I want to announce a new book called Up Toward the Light, and it’s about just that. It’s a story of processing that. It’s a kids book, but I think it could be helpful for kids and parents alike. Processing these thoughts about our own mortality, and what is a helpful way to think about loss. Maybe this particular story, (it’s) about a boy losing his grandpa, and he has a conversation with a tree, a very wise tree, and I hope it could be helpful for you. This comes out April the 2nd. I’ll talk more about it. I think it’s a beautiful book. I’m excited about it. I’m excited for people to see… I think this is gonna be an important project for me, so that we could all stop worrying about what’s down below and start realizing that we have to be moving up toward the light.”

In the video, Smith referenced the title of his book that published last year, Like A River. The singer-turned-minister shared his personal journey of grief as he navigated the loss of his son, River Kelly Smith, who died in a tragic drowning accident in 2019. He was 3 years old. In the book, Smith also wrote about welcoming another child, son Maverick Beckham Smith, after River’s loss in 2021. The After MidNite host shared the impact those life experiences had on his faith and more, calling the book, the “most important piece of media that I could ever release.”

Up Toward the Light is set to make its debut on April 2. Watch Smith’s announcement here:

Granger Smith
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