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Naomi Judd remembered in song and tears at public memorial

<i>Mark Humphrey/AP</i><br/>Wynonna Judd performs during a tribute to her mother
Mark Humphrey/AP
Wynonna Judd performs during a tribute to her mother

By Lisa Respers France, CNN

Remarks and music with lyrics about love, loss and heaven were a common thread throughout the public memorial held for Naomi Judd Sunday at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.

CMT aired the emotional event for the singer and songwriter who died by suicide in April at the age of 76.

Her daughter, actress Ashley Judd, was welcomed to the stage at the beginning of the tribute with a standing ovation.

“Thank you for being in community and fellowship with us,” the younger Judd said. “Because we can pretend to care, but we cannot pretend to show up. So thank you for showing up for our mom.”

She explained that her mother had wanted the public memorial to be held at Ryman, the former home of the Grand Ole Opry, which she referred to as the “mother church.”

Judd also offered an obituary about her mother before introducing her older sister, Wynonna, who emotionally performed a song their mother wrote, “River of Time.”

“I’m holding back a flood of tears/Just thinking ’bout those happy years,” Wynonna Judd sang. “Like all the good times that are no more. My love is gone, gone, gone forever more.”

The event was hosted by Judd family friend and “Good Morning America” co-host Robin Roberts.

“She loved with her whole heart and I know she would be so touched by the outpouring of love in all of our hearts tonight , especially the love towards her daughters,” Roberts said of Judd.

Wynonna and Naomi Judd made up the Grammy-winning duo The Judds and plenty of their hits were performed by current artists, including Little Big Town, Jamey Johnson, EmmyLou Harris with Allison Russell and Brad Paisley.

Members of The Gaither Vocal Band also performed a gospel song as tribute to Judd’s love of spiritual music.

Rock star Bono appeared in a video where he recited the lyrics to the Judd’s song, “Guardian Angel.” Other stars also offered remarks via video including Oprah Winfrey, Salma Hayek, Reese Witherspoon, Morgan Freeman and Bette Midler.

Judd’s husband, Larry Strickland, spoke to those gathered explaining that his wife never met a stranger and enjoyed talking to everyone she came across.

He read an email he received from a man who met his wife on a flight and shared how Judd expressed her love for her husband and their life together.

“Needless to say it brought great pleasure and comfort to me,” Strickland said, emotionally.

Wynonna Judd made the audience laugh by teasing about her sometimes tumultuous relationship with her mother.

“We’re showing the world what a dysfunctional family does,” she said as she looked at her sister and Strickland. “You show up for each other.”

She returned to the stage to peform “The Rose” with Brandi Carlile.

Judd announced that to honor her mother, she planned to continue on the tour they were supposed to do together. She then closed the show with a rousing rendition of “Love Can Build a Bridge.”

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