The humanitarian, actor and writer Ashley Judd pays tribute to her late mother, Country Music Hall of Fame member and half of country music duo The Judds, Naomi Judd, who died Saturday at age 76.
Ashley wrote an essay for USA today about her first Mother’s Day without her mother, and about ‘making motherhood safe and sound’. The actor is also a global goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund, which is committed to promoting sexual and reproductive health services and ending gender-based violence.
In the piece, Judd called her mother Naomi “a legend” and added: “She was an artist and a storyteller, but she had to fight like hell to overcome the hand she was dealt, to earn her place in history.” . She shouldn’t have fought so hard to share her gifts with the world.”
On Sunday, May 1, just a day after Naomi Judd passed away, Ashley stood next to her sister Wynonna in a tear-filled ceremony as The Judds were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Ricky Skaggs hung the Hall of Fame medallion around Wynonna’s neck, while Ashley held up the medallion meant for Naomi.
“This Sunday is abruptly, shockingly, my first Mother’s Day without my mother,” Judd wrote in the essay. “She died just hours before her peers in the Country Music Hall of Fame could show her how much they appreciate her. She died just days before my sister and I was able to show her again how much we love and honor her. It shouldn’t have been like this. I was supposed to visit her on Sunday, to give her a box of old-fashioned candy, our family tradition. We had to sweetly enjoy each other’s easy presence. Instead, I’m not moored. But my heart is not empty. It is full of gratitude for what she left behind. Her upbringing and tenderness, her music and memory.”
Judd also expressed that in addition to that gratitude: “My heart is also filled with something else. Glowing anger. Because my mother was stolen from me by the illness of mental illness, by the wounds she bore from a life of injustice that began when she was a because she was a girl. My mother 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. But motherhood happened to her Without her consent, she had an unintended pregnancy at age 17 and that led her down a path familiar to so many adolescent mothers, including poverty and gender-based violence.
Ashley also shared several statistics on labor and maternity, including: “Every day, more than 800 women die during pregnancy and delivery from causes for which solutions are affordable and feasible.” She also noted that the United States has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world.
Ashley’s USA today piece concluded, “This Mother’s Day I choose to honor my mother for the person she was, a mother and more. And I ask you to honor your own mother, if you are lucky enough to have her. 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.”