Singer Naomi Judd, part of the Grammy-winning duo The Judds and mother of Wynonna Ashley Judd passed away on Saturday at the age of 76.
Her daughters announced her death in a statement provided to The Associated Press. “Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness,” the statement said. “We are shattered. We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in unknown territory.”
Her husband of 32 years, Larry Strickland, released a statement that read, “Naomi Judd’s family request privacy during this heartbreaking time. No additional information will be released at this time.”
Just before Mother’s Day, Ashley Judd paid tribute to her laid mother in a heartfelt essay on motherhood that was published by USA Today.
Ashley Judd Pens Op-Ed On Motherhood For Late Naomi Judd
Judd began her length essay, writing, “This Sunday is abruptly, shockingly, my first Mother’s Day without my mama. She died just hours before her peers at the Country Music Hall of Fame could demonstrate to her how much they esteem her. She died just days before my sister and I could show her again how much we love and honor her.”
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” she continued. “I was supposed to visit her on Sunday, to give her a box of old-fashioned candy, our family tradition. We were supposed to have sweet delight in each others’ easy presence. Instead, I am unmoored. But my heart is not empty. It is replete with gratitude for what she left behind. Her nurture and tenderness, her music and memory.”
She went on to say, “My heart is filled with something else, too. Incandescent rage. Because my mother was stolen from me by the disease of mental illness, by the wounds she carried from a lifetime of injustices that started when she was a girl. Because she was a girl.”
‘Motherhood Happened Without Her Consent’
Judd’s article is especially timely, given the leaked draft opinion showing that the Supreme Court is on the verge of repealing Roe V. Wade.
“My mama was an extraordinary parent under duress: She showed my sister and me the power of having a voice and using it, and there has been no greater lesson,” she explained. “But motherhood happened to her without her consent. She experienced an unintended pregnancy at age 17, and that led her down a road familiar to so many adolescent mothers, including poverty and gender-based violence.”
She added that her “grief isn’t tidy” and added, “When I think about my mother, I am awash in the painful specifics. It’s a little easier, this Mother’s Day, to think about mothers in the collective, to wonder whether we value them.”
Naomi Judd’s Daughter Asks ‘Do We Value Mothers?
Judd then turned her attention to “the women in our own communities who return to work before their bodies have fully recovered from creating life. Do we value them?”
“Our country, the richest in the world, has one of the highest maternal death rates in the developed world – with Black and indigenous women two to three times more likely to die,” she went on.
“And that’s talking only about medical causes of maternal death,” she added. “Let me tell you what else kills pregnant women: violence and despair. A study last year found that some of the top causes of death among pregnant women in the United States were homicide, suicide, and overdose.”
She stated that “often, motherhood happens because of violence, because of neglect, because schools and health systems fail to provide reproductive health information because they fail to teach the right of individuals to make their own choices about sex and contraception.”
“I am not a biological mother,” she admitted. “I wanted to devote my time and resources to children who live in poverty and suffering.”
“Motherhood should always be a choice,” Judd asserted. “Does that sound radical to you? Does that sound like I wish my sister and I hadn’t been born? If that’s what you think, I will gladly direct my incandescent rage at you.”
“How much could we, as a society, possibly value motherhood when it is assumed to be an inevitability?” she asked. “When we accept as normal that women and girls will drop out of school and the workforce because they are expected to take on the unpaid labor of child care? When we fail to protect girls from poverty and violence?”
“My mama was a legend,” she went on. “She was an artist and a storyteller, but she had to fight like h— to overcome the hand she was dealt, to earn her place in history. She shouldn’t have had to fight that hard to share her gifts with the world.”
“This Mother’s Day, I choose to honor my mama for the person she was, a mother and so much more. And I ask you to honor your own mother, if you are lucky enough to have her,” Ashley concluded. “Honor her for more than her labor and sacrifice. Honor her for her talents and dreams. Honor her by demanding a world where motherhood, everywhere, is safe, healthy – and chosen.”