A fitting tribute. Naomi Judd‘s husband, Larry Strickland, talked about the country singer’s legacy while recalling her final days in an emotional speech.
“Naomi never met a stranger,” the singer, 76, said while honoring his late wife at CMT’s Naomi Judd: A River of Time memorial service on Sunday, May 15. “Much to my displeasure, she would start a conversation with anyone who made eye contact with her, and we would end up standing 10, 20, 30 minutes on a sidewalk while she talked to a complete stranger about their passions and their dog.”
Strickland recalled that just days before Judd’s death by suicide on April 30, the “Love Can Build a Bridge” singer flew from Vienna, Austria to Nashville for the Country Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Flying solo was an unusual thing for Judd to do, and he was concerned for her. “I was really scared to death about her flying alone all the way from Vienna back to Nashville ‘cause I knew how fragile she was,” he explained. “Well, she made the flight home without any problem.”
Naomi’s youngest daughter, Ashley Judd, confirmed that the country icon died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound just one day before she and daughter Wynonna Judd were set to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. “I’m sorry that she couldn’t hang on until today,” the Double Jeopardy star, 54, said during the emotional ceremony on May 1.
The Where the Heart Is actress opened up about her late mother’s lifelong battle with mental illness in a powerful interview. “When we’re talking about mental illness, it’s very important to be clear and make the distinction between our loved one and the disease. It’s very real. It lies, it’s savage,” Ashley said during an appearance on Good Morning America on Thursday, May 12. “My mother, our mother, couldn’t hang on until she was inducted into the Country Hall of Fame by her peers [the next day]. I mean, that is the level of catastrophe of what was going on inside of her.”
Ashley added: “The lie that the disease told her was so convincing … [The lie] that you’re not enough, the lie that you’re not loved, that you’re not worthy. Her brain hurt. It physically hurt.”
In the days following the “River of Time” singer’s death, Strickland received a touching letter from a passenger who met her on the plane to Nashville that proved just how loved Naomi was. “It’s a small comfort, I’m sure, but my life seems a lot richer after meeting your wife, however briefly,” he recalled about the missive during Naomi’s memorial service. “Obviously, I didn’t know Naomi at all, but I can tell you she spoke highly and warmly of you, and the life you shared together. Rest assured she loved you and had no qualms about telling me, a stranger on a plane, that was so.”
Strickland also noted that the note gave him “great, great pleasure and comfort” during the difficult time.
Ashley and Wynonna, 57, also honored their mother and her legacy at the memorial service on Monday. After performing one of Naomi’s songs, Wynonna announced that she would honor her mother by continuing with The Judds’ planned tour. “I’ve never sung so bad in my life. I’m so tired and so heartbroken,” the “No One Else on Earth” singer said. “But I’m here with you and for you, as you have been for us for 38 years.”
She continued: “I’ve made a decision, and I thought I’d share it on national television: that after a lot of thought, I’m going to have to honor her and do this tour. I’m just going to have to. Because that’s what you would want. And Bono once told me, ‘Give them what they want, not what you want.'”
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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