“I was really scared to death that she flew all the way from Vienna back to Nashville by herself because I knew how fragile she was,” Strickland recalled
WARNING: This article contains information about suicide and suicidal thoughts, which may trigger or upset some people. Discretion is recommended.
Larry Strickland, husband of Naomi Judd, was afraid his late wife would fly alone, knowing she was in a “fragile” condition. The late Grammy winner traveled solo from Austria to Nashville for the Country Music Hall of Fame ceremony a day before her death. On Sunday, May 15, Strickland took the stage at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium to speak about the country icon, who died by suicide on April 30 at the age of 76. “I was really scared to death that she flew all the way back to Nashville from Vienna alone because I knew how fragile she was,” said Strickland, 76, who married Naomi Judd in 1989.
The late country singer’s husband spoke at the CMT memorial service “Naomi Judd: A River of Time” on Sunday, May 15, while standing alongside Naomi’s daughters Ashley Judd and Wynonna Judd. “Naomi has never met a stranger. Much to my displeasure, she would strike up a conversation with anyone who made eye contact with her, and we ended up standing on a sidewalk for 10, 20, 30 minutes while she talked to a complete stranger about her passions and her dog.” He then described Naomi’s flight home from Vienna, Austria, in preparation for the Country Music Hall of Fame event and noting that it was rare for her to travel alone, she returned on April 29, the day before her death and two days before her induction to the Hall of Fame, via Chicago Strickland said, “Well, she made the flight home with no problems.”
Naomi Judd killed herself at her Nashville home, which she once said Oprah was her ‘sanctuary’
Naomi made such a deep impression on the man who sat next to her on the flight home that he emailed Strickland immediately after her death. Strickland described the letter as “relief and comfort,” adding that the man had no idea Naomi was famous when they boarded the plane together. The “next 90 minutes that we spent in each other’s company were not only entertaining, fascinating and enlightening, but, to me at least, very enjoyable,” the unidentified flight attendant said in his letter to Strickland.
“It’s a small consolation, I’m sure, but my life seems a lot richer after meeting your wife, albeit briefly,” the note continued, which visible an emotional reaction from Strickland on stage triggered. “Obviously I didn’t know Naomi at all, but I can tell you that she spoke highly and heartily of you and the life you shared together,” read the heartfelt email, which Strickland recited while choking on it . “Be assured that she loved you and had no qualms in telling me, a stranger on an airplane, that it was.”
The man concluded his letter by updating Strickland on the “level and impact” his late wife had on him during their brief time together, and Strickland told the audience he was “great, great joy and comfort” at the news brought. Ashley Judd and Wynonna Judd, the songwriter’s children, also paid tribute to their late mother during the event at Ryman Auditorium. Describing her mother as “everyone,” Wynonna, 57, said, “Maybe that’s why everyone felt like they knew her.” She also announced that she will continue the 11-date national tour she was planning with her mother, Naomi had. “I have to honor them and do this tour. I’ll just have to do it,” Wynona said. “The show must go on.”
Ashley, 54, previously said she was the one who discovered Naomi after she died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. “I went upstairs to let her know [her] a friend was there and I spotted her,” the Emmy nominee said during her Good Morning America interview. Discussing her mother’s struggle with depression, the actress said, “It’s very important to be clear and differentiate between the loved one and the illness,” Ashley clarified. “The barrier between the way in which [her peers] held her, unable to enter her heart, and the lie the disease told her was so convincing.”
Ashley and Wynonna had also released a joint statement announcing their mother’s death. “Today we sisters witnessed a tragedy,” the half-siblings tweeted in April. “We lost our beautiful mother to mental illness. We are shaken. We navigate deep sorrow knowing that she was loved by her audience just as we loved her. We’re in uncharted territory.” While she and her family were “uncomfortable” speaking about Naomi’s death, they wanted to raise awareness about mental health issues.