Emotions ran high during Monday night’s edition of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” as Fallon returned to the airwaves following the death of his mother Gloria. Fallon didn’t hold back his feelings as he told the audience about his mom and what he wanted to do to honor her in the future.
“She was the best audience; she was the one I was always trying to make laugh,” Fallon told the crowd. “She was such a fan of the show and everything I did.”
“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 times and say, ‘I love you.’ And I would squeeze back, ‘I love you, too,'” Fallon said.
Fallon was reminded of this memory when he was with his mother in the hospital.
“Last week I was in the hospital, and I grabbed her hand and squeezed I love you. I just knew we were in trouble, you know? … We’re going to continue to work really hard to bring some light and laughter into the world. Mom, I’ll never stop trying to make you laugh. I love you,” he said.
Last week, Fallon’s representative confirmed his mother’s death.
“Jimmy Fallon’s mother, Gloria, died peacefully on Saturday,” a family spokesperson told PEOPLE. “Jimmy was at his mother’s bedside, along with her loved ones, when she passed away at NYU Langone Medical Center in NYC. Our prayers go out to Jimmy and his family as they go through this tough time.”
Monday evening was made more special for Fallon as Taylor Swift took the stage. Her performance of “New Year’s Day” was not originally in the cards, but the show’s crew arranged it as a special gift for Fallon.
“She sang ‘New Year’s Day.’ No one had heard it. Suddenly she sings the line, ‘Squeeze my hand 3 times in the back of the taxi.’ I nearly gasped. Tears. I think everyone in the audience started sobbing,” “Tonight Show” writer Mike DiCenzo explained afterward on Twitter.
“I could see Jimmy silhouetted at his desk dabbing his eyes with a tissue. We all lost it. It was a beautiful coincidence in a beautiful performance. ‘Hold on to your memories, they will hold on to you,’ Taylor sang,” he said.
Gloria Fallon died on Nov. 4 of an undisclosed illness. She was 68 years old.