Abdominal bleeding in the early ’80s lead to a partial hysterectomy for Parton, meaning she’d never have kids. “God has a plan for everything,” she said in a 2017 Today show interview, putting that perfectly positive Parton perspective on the situation. “I think it probably was his plan for me not to have kids so everybody’s kids could be mine. And they are now.”
And as revealed in the 2017 book Dolly on Dolly: Interviews and Encounters With Dolly Parton, she’d admitted that the marriage was “totally open and free,” according to excerpts obtained by the Daily Mail. But that openness led to a secret “affair of the heart” and “it just about killed me,” she shared.
She wasn’t exaggerating, either. The heartbreak was so painful that Parton revealed she once contemplated taking her own life. “I was sitting upstairs in my bedroom one afternoon when I noticed in the nightstand drawer my gun that I keep for burglars. I looked at it a long time…Then, just as I picked it up, just to hold it and look at it for a moment, our little dog, Popeye, came running up the stairs,” she said, per the Daily Mail. “The tap-tap-tap of his paws jolted me back to reality. I suddenly froze. I put the gun down. Then I prayed. I kinda believe Popeye was a spiritual messenger from God.”
She continued, “I don’t think I’d have done it, killed myself, but I can’t say for sure. Now that I’ve gone through that terrible moment, I can certainly understand the possibilities even for someone solid like me if the pain gets bad enough.”