Ahead of Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 8, Ashley Judd penned an emotional essay just one week after the death of her mother, Naomi Judd, at age 76.
Published by USA Today, Judd candidly discussed the prospect of her first Mother’s Day without her mom by her side. The 54-year-old actor acknowledged that the holiday “wasn’t supposed to be this way,” adding, “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,” she continued. “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.”
In a statement shared on social media by Judd and her sister, Wynonna Judd, on Saturday, April 30, they revealed they lost their mother “to the disease of mental illness," a struggle which Naomi has been candid about in the past. In the essay, Ashley expressed the “incandescent rage” that she feels alongside the positive memories she has of her mother.
“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," she wrote, opening up about her mother’s “unintended pregnancy” when she was 17.
“Forgive me if my grief isn’t tidy,” she 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.”
The “Double Jeopardy” star pivoted, sharing numerous statistics from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and United Nations Population Fund surrounding the number of deaths daily related to pregnancy and childbirth from preventable causes, maternal death rates in the United States, and the legal inability to refuse content.
“My mama was a legend. 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,” Judd shared. “She shouldn’t have had to fight that hard to share her gifts with the world.”
She finished her essay on a touching note, writing that on Mother’s Day on Sunday, she will still continue to honor her mother, and encourages those who can to do the same.
"Honor her for more than her labor and sacrifice," she wrote. "Honor her for her talents and dreams. Honor her by demanding a world where motherhood, everywhere, is safe, healthy – and chosen."
The matriarch of the Judd family passed away one day before The Judds were to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Per the family’s request, the medallion ceremony on Sunday, May 1 in Nashville, Tennessee proceeded as planned, with both sisters honoring their mother at the ceremony.
“My momma loved you so much, and she appreciated your love for her and I’m sorry that she couldn’t hang on until today,” Judd said to the audience. “Your esteem for her and regard for her really penetrated her heart, and it was your affection for her that did keep her going in these last few years.”
“Speechless,” she wrote, later adding, “We each are alone and we are in fellowship, broken and held, protected from nothing and sustained in everything. It’s the beginning of an old story, life and death, loss and life.”
She concluded the caption, writing, “Be free, my beautiful mother. Be free.”
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY: