Actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, whose country music roots run deep thanks to her marriage with superstar singer Brad Paisley, recounted a special story about the late Naomi Judd this week. The Father of the Bride actress sat near Judd on an airplane many years ago, and said the Country Music Hall of Fame singer quelled her fears of flying with one “simple” phrase.
“Naomi Judd was always very sweet to me. I met her a few times. And I remember shortly after I met my husband, I still felt really freaked out about flying,” she said to Fox News Digital. “It was after 9/11 and I used to get so nervous flying as so many people were. And I remember one day, I was on a flight with Naomi, and she was sitting behind me, and I was so nervous, and she just seemed so at peace and calm.
“Impulsively, I turned around to her and told her that I was really scared to fly. She just looked at me with this sparkle in her eye and she said, ‘Oh, I’m not afraid of anything.'”
Williams-Paisley said Judd’s cool demeanor felt “really inspiring” to her in the moment. She added that the interaction became a lynchpin for her confidence moving forward.
“Probably, you know, [Naomi didn’t feel that way] all the time, obviously. But in that moment, she felt it,” Williams-Paisley explained. “Ever since then, when I was afraid of flying, I would think, ‘Just pretend you’re Naomi. Just pretend you’re not afraid. Just say, I’m not afraid to fly’. And it worked. I’ve always been so grateful to her for just that one moment. She probably had no idea what gift she was giving me.”
Naomi Judd gave her many fans, including Kimberly Williams-Paisley, a gift with her musical talent, even though she struggled to make sense of her own mental illness
On April 30, the day before her induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Naomi Judd died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Her daughters Ashley and Wynonna Judd announced the heartbreaking tragedy via social media with a joint statement.
“Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness. We are shattered.”
The statement continued: “We are navigating profound grief and know that as we loved her, she was loved by her public. We are in unknown territory.”
Performing as The Judds, Naomi and Wynonna were also slated to hit the road for a “final” tour — the first live shows for the mother-daughter pair in 10 years. Over the weekend, friends and family of Naomi honored the late country music legend live on CMT with Naomi Judd: A River of Time Celebration. CMT executive producers Jason Owen and Margaret Comeaux spoke with Variety about the memorial.
“There were a few big things in her funeral arrangements that she had planned a couple of years in the past. She wanted it to be a celebration, versus a full-on funeral,” Owen said. “She wanted to hold it at the Ryman, she wanted the Gaither Band. And she wanted the last song to be ‘Love Can Build a Bridge.’”