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Judds' concert serves as reminder that even when strength fails we can remain determined

A planned weekend away to a country music concert gave Katie Pinke a reminder of support for mental health after seeing and hearing Wynonna Judd on stage who lost her mother and singing partner Naomi Judd to mental illness this year.

A red haired woman in a black dress sings on a stage. A drummer and drum set are elevated behind her, and a keyboard player is elevated a little higher than that. The drum set says, "The Judds."
Wynonna Judd, sang in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on The Judds: The Final Tour, after the April 30, 2022, death of her mother, Naomi Judd, who lost her battle with mental illness. The Judds sang as a mother/ daughter duo for 39 years on the road with Wynonna also having a solo career. Photo taken Oct. 7, 2022.
Katie Pinke / Agweek
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Editor's note: If you or someone you know is in crisis, you can call the  National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 to speak with a trained crisis counselor. The number is answered locally.

“I am not the strongest tonight, but I am the most determined,” Wynonna Judd said from the stage in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, when I attended her Oct. 7, 2022 show, alongside my mom and sister.

In late winter 2022, longtime mother/daughter country music duo Naomi and Wynonna Judd announced The Judds: The Final Tour. By the first week of April, I purchased three tickets for the show in Sioux Falls, South Dakota — 350 miles away but the closest tour date to my rural North Dakota home. I texted my mom and sister and said we have six months to figure this out, but we’re going to this concert together.

Naomi Judd died on April 30, 2022, after losing a long battle with mental illness. Like all fans, we were gutted by this loss and grieved for the family losing their mother, grandmother and wife.

Between then and now, we worked through a lot of life as well. But come Oct. 7, we drove to Sioux Falls. As farm women, professionals and moms, we aren't always the strongest, but we are determined, as Wynonna said.

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If you live the hustle of farm, business and family life, you understand the need for planning and for putting thoughts that you won't be able to pull off those plans on the back burner, remembering instead that you will try your best. Our trip to the Judds' concert created our first-ever “mother/daughters” weekend and a true celebration for my mom’s late October birthday. Her real birthday celebration may come if corn harvest is done in time for my dad to take her out to supper on Oct. 30 instead of her delivering him supper to the combine.

I started writing this column on World Mental Health Day, Oct. 10. The week prior, Oct. 2-8, was Mental Illness Awareness Week, coinciding with the concert. We’re acutely aware of mental health and mental illness in our family. I’m not suggesting a country music concert is a solution to mental health struggles. However, reconnecting with my loved ones, carving out time away from usual weekend routines — away from the farm or business — and experiencing downtime is important for my mental health, and for my mom and sister too, I believe.

We made it, together, to where we wanted to be.

IMG_8417.jpg
Ashley McBryde, Wynonna Judd and Martina McBride perform together in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Oct. 7, 2022. McBride shared she was there to be a support and show love to Wynonna who lost her singing partner and mom, Naomi Judd, to mental illness on April 20, 2022.
Katie Pinke / Agweek

Martina McBride opened the concert with a full set of her hits but made it clear she was there to support Wynonna Judd, saying we as audience members could all show love and support to Wynonna by having a great time.

Next Ashley McBryde (not related to Martina) sang alongside Wynonna, as a stand in for Naomi. For a few songs, the three women sang together, including Loretta Lynn’s "Coal Miner’s Daughter," a nod to Lynn’s recent passing and the trailblazing she did in country music.

A few times Wynonna’s husband and drummer, Cactus Moser, a longtime musician formerly of the band Highway 101, came out on stage to sing alongside her or just put his hand on her shoulder to support her.

Support comes in numerous forms. I saw many forms on stage at the concert. It looked and felt different than I had planned back in early April, yet showing up was the best thing I could have done, not only for me but also for my mom and sister.

When Wynonna experienced a lift malfunction on the stage at the beginning of the concert she said, “Sometimes it’s just too much, but the show must go on.”

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We all feel the "too much" of life and the push to keep going.

More than a country music concert, resources are available for rural and farm folks to turn to for stress and mental health needs. Agweek’s Mikkel Pates recently wrote about the Farm to Farm stress counseling available, through telehealth, primarily by smartphone or computer, with minimal travel for those in agriculture. The counselors in the program have a connection to agriculture. NDSU’s Sean Brotherson said in the article that about 40 to 50 clients are utilizing the program per month right now.

Reading the Farm to Farm stress counseling article combined with the concert experience has me reminding myself: You do not need to be the strongest, just keep being determined.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at kpinke@agweek.com, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.

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