And Ashley recently opened up to Diane Sawyer about that tragic day, revealing some of the details the family had kept private up until this point.
Ashley noted that they knew the details of her mother’s death would eventually get out to the public, and she wanted to be the one to say the truth before it became twisted by gossip sites and people who really didn’t know the full and accurate story.
She started by reiterating how debilitating Namoi’s mental health disease was for most of her life (something Naomi was publicly open about in the past):
“My mother knew that she was seen and she was heard in her anguish. And that she was walked home… she was walked home.
When we’re talking about mental illness, it’s very important to be clear and to make the distinction between our loved one and the disease. It’s very real, and it lies, it’s savage, and you know, my mother, our mother, couldn’t hang on until she was inducted into the Hall of Fame by her peers.
And that is the level of catastrophe of what was going on inside of her, because the barrier between the regard in which they held her couldn’t penetrate into her heart. And the lie that the disease told her was so convincing.”
Ashley confirmed that Naomi used a firearm to commit suicide, and that she was the one who found her mother that day at Naomi’s Tennessee home:
“I’ve thought about this so much, because once I say it it cannot be unsaid. And so, because we don’t want it to be apart of the gossip economy, I will share with you that she used a weapon.
Mother used a firearm. So that’s the piece of information that we feel very uncomfortable sharing but understand the position that, you know, if we don’t say it, someone else is going to.”
Diane asked her if it was just a day like any other day, and Ashley said it wasn’t exactly normal because her mom had asked her to stay with her while she was at the house visiting, which she did most days when she was home in Tennessee:
“It was a mixed day. I visit with my mom and pop everyday when I’m home in Tennessee, so I was at the house visiting as I am everyday.
And mom said to me, ‘Will you stay with me?’, and I said ‘Of course I will.'”
Ashley went outside to welcome a friend of Naomi’s who was there to visit, and when she went back upstairs to tell Naomi that her friend was there, Ashley and her family’s lives were tragically changed forever:
“I went upstairs to let her know that the friend was there and I discovered her. I have both grief and trauma from discovering her. My mother is entitled to her dignity and her privacy.
And so there are some things that we would just like to retain as a family, and so I wanna be very careful that when we talk about this today for anyone having those ideas, or those impulses, you know, to talk to someone, to share, to be open, to be vulnerable.
There is a national suicide hotline.”
Of course, Naomi is now a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame with her daughter, Wynonna, as the iconic duo The Judds.
Naomi Judd Was A Friend To All
Ashley also recalled what a personable and kind woman her mother was, who was quick to strike up conversation with people she didn’t otherwise know and become fast friends despite what she dealt with on the inside:
“Mom was a brilliant conversationalist, she was a star, she was an underrated songwriter, and she was someone who suffered from mental illness, you know, and had a lot of trouble getting off the sofa.
Except to go into town everyday togo to the Cheesecake Factory where all the staff knew and loved her. And I know everything about them, because she told me everything about them, and Dwayne at Walgreens, you know, who needs to get a dog.
That’s the way she was, and she always had $100 bills stuffed in her bra and she was passing them out to the janitorial staff.
Just an unfailingly kind and sensitive woman. She was very isolated in many ways because of the disease, and yet there were a lot of people who showed up for her over the years, not just me.”
Noami was one of a kind, and will be sorely missed by the country music community and beyond.
Wynonna was understandably not ready to participate in the interview on camera, and sent a letter to her sister saying she needed time to process and before she spoke publicly again.
She also noted how thankful she was that she had Ashley by her side through this traumatic time, with the letter reading, in part:
“I just can’t believe she’s gone.”
It’s an absolutely heartbreaking situation all the way around, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family during this extremely difficult time.
You can watch part of the emotional interview here: