On Mother’s Day, Let’s Listen to Ashley

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Noami Judd, Wynonna and Ashley.

All week, they’ve been on my mind as I’ve replayed in my head the night I found out my nephew died by suicide.

My nephew was just a sweet, twenty-two-year-old young man, a father of two, living with his girlfriend and raising their children.

They had recently had some issues, financial, legal and mental, but they were picking themselves up and moving on…

… until they weren’t.

All of his family tried desperately to help him. We did. We gave money, spent time, took the kids so they could relax, got him help, prayed, cried and begged for him to be okay.

In the end, none of it made a difference because when the state of your mind is in that much discord, the only way out you see is a permanent one.

In 2021, my nephew died by suicide, and I haven’t been the same since.

I go back in my head to times where I wish I would have been more present. Struggling with my own family issues, it was hard to place myself among others’ issues, feeling overwhelmed by all that was before me.

And it seems that since he died, death, specifically suicide, has been all around me.

Old classmates, former coworkers, athletes, actors. They’re taking their lives at breakneck speed.

But Naomi Judd had tried so hard to battle her demons.

I said in a previous post, family issues are like weedy vines. They wrap around the trunk of our proverbial tree, and they choke the life out of us as we try to make life different for the souls who come after us.

Generation after generation, I’ve seen it, again and again, these problems that arise when we don’t deal with our family burdens, accept what happened, forgive all, and move forward the best we can.

For some of us, the pain of our past is simply too hard to bear.

I believe mothers have particularly hard burdens to bear, and oftentimes, Mother’s Day can bring that pain to the surface.

My mother and I have had a difficult relationship.

I used to blame her for everything wrong in our family. I used to believe that if she could have loved my brother and me more, we would have been perfect, or at the very least, better than we turned out.

But the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized that my mom did the very best she could. Having grown up in a family surrounded by weedy vines, she couldn’t have known how to be June Cleaver if she tried. In reality, considering the mother she saw growing up, she was a dang good mom. And I’m proud to call her mine.

My dad and she married way too young, and honestly, they married because they had a child. There wasn’t time to work on the relationship; two kids came mighty quick. There was never enough money, and both were working out their own childhood issues. So it was never the greatest marriage of all time, but both of them have said they could have done better. That’s okay. We know better when we do. (Words of the great Maya Angelou.)

My father remarried when I was 16. To say I wasn’t thrilled was an understatement. My stepmother had never had children, and I’m not sure she was dying to have them, especially my wild soul.

Now, I look at her as one of the best people surrounding me. She has put up with my dad and I’m thankful for her. She is a gift that I know came into my life for a reason.

My mother in law is also one of my favorite women in my corner. She’s been in my life since I was twenty years old, and I am so blessed to have her.

Really just about everything I know about being a hands-on, loving mom comes from my mother-in-law. Talk about loving her kids with the fiercest love I’ve ever seen! She is a woman who has devoted her whole life to her family and not without a whole lot of strength and struggle.

There is no one I love and admire more, however, than my Grandma Shirley.

This year marks ten years that she hasn’t been on Earth. I miss her every single day.

My brother and I spent weeks in the summer with her. She baked cookies, and cooked meals, and taught me all about ABC Soaps and clipping coupons.

She let me play in her good makeup, she hardly ever fussed at my brother and me, no matter what we were fighting about, and she loved us without ever really having to say she loved us. We just knew.

Like Mary did as the mother of Christ, we mamas treasure things in our heart.

You almost can’t help it. Every milestone of your child’s life gets stored away the nooks and crannies of the organ that keeps you alive. (Okay, so they get stored in the brain, but in the Bible, the heart was the center of life, so roll with it.)

Birth. First Steps.

That first baseball hit. The first smiley face sticker on a worksheet.

First school dance. Driver’s license.


You watch the milestones with pride and joy, and you know that one day, they will understand the role you played in shaping who they are.

And you hope that role is good, and that succeeded with you, not in spite of you.

I am now the mother of four, and I love my babies with all my heart.

These babies are my whole heart and life, and I can’t imagine for a second leaving them here on purpose.

Which tells me Noami Judd must have been in pain too unbearable to even fathom.

It was clear that she loved her girls. Numerous interviews laid claim to that.

Sure, she had had her issues to face. They had gone through estrangements while each of them sorted out their head.

But that isn’t far from the norm in many families. According to the BBC, estrangement is on the rise.

The fact that estrangement between parents and their adult children seems to be on the rise – or at least is increasingly discussed – seems to be down to a complex web of cultural and psychological factors. And the trend raises plenty of questions about its impact on both individuals and society.

“Family Estrangement: Why Adults Are Cutting Off Their Parents”

As more and more adults begin to question the authority of those around them, it makes sense that so many of us just won’t stand for some of the mess we saw in our own childhood. We want to cut off those weedy vines and burn them to the ground.

But sometimes, forgiveness is the only way to truly move forward.

Ashley Judd recently wrote an op-ed for USA TODAY.

Fresh off the dealings of her mother’s sudden absence, the words Ashley pens pierce the soul of the reader. You can’t help but to feel her pain bleeding from pores as she writes so sweetly, yet sadly, of her mother’s death.

I wanted to share just a bit of it here. (USA TODAY, please allow me the honor.)

Forgive me if my grief isn’t tidy. 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.

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. 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. 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.

Ashley Judd: Honor My Mother and Her Legacy by Making Motherhood Safe and Healthy

To be fair, her article comes with a heavy dose of scolding, as our US Supreme Court is supposedly looking to overturn Roe v. Wade.

As Christians, we see this as a good thing, and truly life is GOOD.

But legally turning over the ability to receive a safe abortion is not a good idea. Abortion will happen. We live in a fallen world. Although no one should be using abortion as birth control, it should be there so back alley abortions don’t happen.

I was twenty years old when I found out I was pregnant.

I am so glad I kept my child, and I’m allowed to say that. Others are also allowed to be happy they didn’t. Life is hard, and we don’t always make the best decisions. We are human.

Wynonna and Ashley. I’m sure they wish that their own mother had gotten the help she desperately needed. Or maybe they wish that she’d done more, tried harder, healed her demons.

Or, it’s quite possible, they are at peace, realizing that their mother did all they could.

We mothers, we are doing the best we can.

And this Mother’s Day, I’m choosing to honor Naomi Judd by going easy on myself.

I haven’t been the perfect the perfect mother, and that’s okay.

These babies love me just the same.

Happy Mother’s Day, Y’all.

See you soon,


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