Ashley Judd, daughter of the late country music icon Naomi Judd, published an essay this past Sunday, April 30, in tribute of her mother, a year after her suicide.
Ashley’s essay was published by Time Magazine on Sunday morning.
She starts her essay expressing her grief in the past year. Ashley celebrated her first birthday without Naomi on April 19, and she decided to look for birthday cards and considered which one her mother would have picked out for her, a birthday tradition that Ashley remembers dearly of her mother.
“Earlier this month, I walked through my first birthday without her, a rite of passage everyone experiences with the death of their parents,” she wrote. “At the shop where Mom and I always selected our cards, I read the “To Daughter” birthday cards and imagined which one Mom would have given me: she always chose the gooiest and most expressive, underlined the parts she thought most meaningful, and of course, wrote by hand her own message addressed to ‘Sweetpea.’”
“I felt her love as I read the card I imagined she would have picked,” she added. “A beautiful ouch.”
As Naomi’s first death anniversary approached, Ashley spent her time reminiscing on the mementos that her mother left behind, including her hair brush, a previously worn “pretty dress”, and even used tissues that were still in her pockets.
“I have this week started to sit in sacred presence with her precious things, to look at her strands of red hair in her brush, to hold a pretty dress she left half-zipped, to chuckle at the folded tissues she kept in every single pocket.”
In addition, she mentioned studying Naomi’s calendar in which she marked notable events in her life; from serious instances like when Naomi beat hepatitis C, to more “trivial” times like meeting Ashley’s boyfriend and reminders of hair appointments and scheduled interviews.
“These intimate exchanges with the private fortify me,” she said of examining her mother’s mementos. “They remind me of the interior landscape of my mother’s soul, the innocent God-scape that somehow remained untouched by the mental illness that marred her life. And they summon the welcoming sound of my mother’s voice pealing like bells whenever she saw me stride barefoot onto her back porch.”
In the next part of her essay, she discussed Naomi’s struggles with s*xual abuse and harrassment from a very young age committed by family members, and even into her adulthood when she was brought into the professional workplace.
“These assaults and violations, from which she never did heal, remained a source of unresolved agony and fed her mental illness,” Ashley concluded. “Yet she did her utmost to fight back with the skills she had.”
Ashley admits that she and her mother would openly talk about the s*xual injustices that occur all over the world and how, although she is sad to advocate for the awareness of these terrible crimes and how they affect mental health as a result of her mother’s experience, she states that she and her sister Wynonna will gladly do so to prevent such tragedies.
“With April being not only the anniversary of her passing but also S*xual Assault Awareness Month, I will therefore accept in her honor the Lifetime Igniting Impact Award from the World Without Exploitation, which works to create a world where no one is bought, sold, or exploited,” she declared. “I will continue to agitate for the Equality Model, which advocates holding sex buyers, pimps, and brothel keepers accountable for their demand for vulnerable human bodies. People who support the full decriminalization of s*x buying, brothel keeping, and p*mping – which has been proposed around the country – flummoxed Mom. That is part of my commitment to her legacy and one way in which to honor the depth of our relationship, both as her child and a fellow survivor.”
With her ongoing advocation of s*x crimes and mental illness awareness, she hopes to carry on Naomi’s legacy and use her disparities and suicide as a way to spread awareness and to add more to the prevention and treatment of people who are suicidal.
“During this past year I have learned how I can make the irreplaceable loss of my mom serve her legacy. “Grief may be the most honest form of prayer,” Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr muses,” she said. “There is lament, and there is also meaning. Everything is put to use in God’s economy as the painful past can be transmuted into service for others.”
“The Bible also says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” And indeed I have been comforted, by the work I’ve done to commemorate my mother, and by the many who also walk in and with grief and have shared theirs with me,” she added to her conclusion. “Though no one can do our grief for us, it is also true that none of us need do it alone.”
If you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental-health crisis or contemplating suicide, call or text 988. In emergencies, call 911, or seek care from a local hospital or mental-health provider.