As you may already be aware, Jimmy Fallon’s mother, Gloria, tragically passed away on Saturday, Nov 5. Jimmy described her as being “biggest fan,” and all episodes of The Tonight Show were canceled in the week following her death to allow the Fallon family time to deal with their grief.
Last night, Jimmy returned to the show, making the first appearance since his mother’s death. Though Jimmy was incredibly professional, and somehow managed to perform a normal opening monologue, things began to get emotional right before the end of the show.
Fallon spoke about Gloria, saying, “When we were little, my mom would walk us to the store, me and my sister, and we would hold hands. She would squeeze my hand three time and say ‘I love you.’ And I would squeeze back ‘I love you, too.'”
“Last week I was in the hospital … and I grabbed her hand and I squeezed it, ‘I love you.’ I just knew we were in trouble,” Fallon said through tears.
Fallon went on to thank everyone for their support, and vowed to continue using the show to bring light and love into the world. “Mom, I’ll never stop trying to make you laugh.”
At the end of the show, Taylor Swift took to the stage to perform “New Year’s Day” from her new album, Reputation. One of the verses says, “You squeeze my hands three times in the back of the taxi, I can tell that it’s gonna be a long road.” The song was a surprisingly emotional tribute to Fallon’s late mother.
One of the show’s writers and producers, Mike DiCenzo, took to Twitter to explain that Taylor wasn’t even supposed to appear on the show initially, but that she didn’t hesitate when asked to perform.
DiCenzo adds Jimmy hadn’t even told the staff about the hand-squeezing story, and that the song just magically happened to fit the emotional moment.
And that hug between Jimmy and Taylor was genuine, Mike says.
Our thoughts and love go out to Jimmy, his family and the show during this difficult and heartbreaking time.