Friends and family gathered at CMA Theater in Nashville on Saturday for a private farewell to Naomi Judd. She unexpectedly died the week before, one day before her induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
It was a morning of songs, tears, and memories as artists including Dolly Parton, Ricky Skaggs, Bob Weir, the Isaacs, Vince Gill, Brandi Carlile and Naomi’s daughter Wynonna shared the stage to honor the icon.
“We are family,” Parton said, according to Country Insider. “And when it’s family, you forgive them for they know not what they do. When it’s family, you accept them because you have no choice but to. When it’s family, they’re a mirror of the worst and best in you. You’re always trying to do your best, and they always put you to the test, and you pray for God to do the rest.”
The industry publication described the scene as part living room and part church as Wynonna sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and Parton recited the lyrics to the final verse of “I Will Always Love You.”
Naomi’s daughters, Wynonna and actress Ashley Judd, said their mother planned the details of her funeral service in advance, including the songs she wanted and the people she hoped would perform them. Country Insider reports common themes of earthly pain, turmoil, and uncertainty along with peace and Heaven.
Dan Scott, a former pastor at Christ Church Nashville, where Naomi attended, sang “Ain’t No Grave.” Ricky Skaggs, who inducted The Judds into the Country Music Hall of Fame, delivered “Talk About Suffering.” The Imperials performed “Sweet, Sweet Spirit,” and Naomi’s husband, Larry Strickland, joined them. The Oak Ridge Boys shared stories from touring with The Judds and sang “Farther Along” and “Amazing Grace.” U2 frontman Bono recited a poem via video that called Naomi a new guardian angel. The Isaacs received delivered “Mama’s Teaching Angels How to Sing,” “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow,” and “It Is Well With My Soul” and received a standing ovation for each song. Naomi asked Vince Gill to sing the Stanley Brothers’ “Drifting Too Far From the Shore.” Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead performed “Ripple,” and gospel singer Guy Penrod sang “Knowing What I Know About Heaven.”
“This is very much the service she wanted,” Ashley said. “She had it all written down, and so she took the guesswork out of it for us, which we thank her for.”
Wynonna and Ashley leaned on each other for support as they addressed the attendees together.
“I’m just so mad she didn’t hang on so we could dance together one more time,” Wynonna said, explaining she wanted to keep the shows she and her mother had planned as their final concert performances later in the year. “You know me. I will keep singing. It’s going to be lonely, but I will sing.”
Brandi Carlile closed the service with “Love Can Build a Bridge,” which she was supposed to sing at their Country Music Hall of Fame induction but couldn’t because she tested positive for COVID-19.