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"I May Not Love Taylor Swift, But I Was Moved to Tears By What She Did for Jimmy Fallon"

After Jimmy Fallon's mother passed away, Taylor Swift gave a surprise performance on 'The Tonight Show' and it was super emotional

Taylor Swift sitting at a piano and singing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, wearing a grey sweatshirt

(Courtesy of The Tonight Show)

Jimmy Fallon has built his career on being able to make audiences laugh, but on Nov. 13 he had everyone in tears.

The host of The Tonight Show had taken a short leave following the death of his mother, Gloria, who passed away on Nov. 4.

After a week off the air, Fallon returned to the desk and opened the show with an emotional tribute to his late mother—or as he described her, “the best audience, she was the one I was always trying to make laugh and she was such a fan of the show, and everything I did.”

I literally had to step away from my cubicle after watching Fallon share his memories of his mother. Hearing how she would hold his hand when he was a child, then squeeze it three times and say, “I love you,” made my heart physically ache. I lost my mother when I was 25 and saying goodbye to her in the hospital, as Fallon described doing with his mother, is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through. But getting back to work was a challenge I didn’t see coming. Returning to a space where you’re expected to perform, in Fallon’s case literally, and get back to “normal” life, feels nothing close to normal.

When I returned to work, I would go through the motions, but my mind was elsewhere. Where, I couldn’t tell you. It was just unable to focus on any task. As a result, I submitted more than one story that made literally no sense (thank heavens for editors) and it would take me twice as long to get anywhere because I would repeatedly make wrong turns, even when I was headed to a familiar destination. I don’t think I would’ve survived that time had it not been for the colleagues, friends and family who held me up—and on Monday night, Taylor Swift did just that for Fallon.

According to tweets from Mike DiCenzo, a writer and producer on The Tonight Show, Swift was not originally scheduled to appear on the Nov. 13 show, but the crew wanted to do something special for Fallon’s first night back. Knowing that Swift was in town to perform on Saturday Night Live, DiCenzo says that the The Tonight Show team asked “on a whim” if she would be willing to perform. “She said yes with zero hesitation,” he says.

And that wasn’t the only surprise.

Swift took the stage to perform “New Year’s Day,” a new song off her Reputation album, which includes a lyric that almost seemed written for Fallon. “Squeeze my hand three times in the back of the taxi, I can tell it’s going to be a long road,” she sang, prompting my eyes to well up yet again. According to DiCenzo, that line had the entire audience in tears.

I have never been a Swift fan. Even before this *ahem* somewhat controversial album, her music never spoke to me the way it seemed to get some of my friends through their rough breakups or their personal insecurities. But this performance, and the compassion and love she was showing Fallon, hit me right in the feels. It hit me like every dinner invite and supportive hug that I received when I returned to Toronto after my mum’s funeral. At a time when grief had left me completely drained, moments like these are what started to fill my heart up again. Watching Swift and Fallon, I was reminded of that feeling. 

Swift sang the final verse, “Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you, and I will hold on to you.” That’s exactly what she did for Fallon last night—and that deserves applause.

Related:

The Old Taylor Swift May Be Dead, but We’re Pretty Sure She’ll Be Back
Prince Harry Opens Up About Mental Health and Losing his Mum
Julia Cooper Makes the Case for Getting Real About Grief