Johnston shared on Instagram that is dad, Jerry Ray Johnston, tested positive for COVID on Dec. 19. He was hospitalized Dec. 27, and he died on Jan. 9. He was buried in West Monroe, Louisiana, last week.
“My family and I are heartbroken,” the singer shared.
Johnston said he’ll still text his dad every time anything “cool happens in my life” and listed a multitude other ways he’ll remember his dad.
“I will probably still call you everytime I’m trying to take a back road short cut in Nashville to get somewhere quicker,” he said. “I will try to learn how to make Mexican cornbread for Mom and Texa… and most importantly I will never forget how loved I felt my whole life. I will make sure Jude feels that same love everyday.”
But Johnston is also using his dad’s passing as an opportunity to encourage people to take COVID-19 seriously – and to get vaccinated.
“If you are reading this and have someone in your life that doesn’t want to get vaxxed for whatever reason, I will tell you this… My dad chose to be unvaccinated and would have had a chance to live if he were,” Johnston wrote. “My Superman went down in 3 weeks. This virus is not a political joke. It is real. It is scary. And it has dug a big 6 foot hole in so many peoples lives including mine. Not sure I’ll get over this one..
“I love you dad. ❤️ Your son- Jaren”
The band has long been outspoken about COVID-19 safety. In August, the band canceled shows when a member got sick and then was among the country music’s first acts to enact a COVID-19 policy at shows.