“She was the best audience, she was the one I was always trying to make laugh,” he said. “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,” he told the audience.
“And she would squeeze my hand three times and say, ‘I love you,’ and I would squeeze back, ‘I love you too.’ Last week I was in the hospital, at her side, and I grabbed her hand and I squeezed ‘I love you,’ and I just knew we were in trouble.”
He continued by thanking his fans for all their support during the tough time, and said everyone at the show would “work really hard to bring some light and some laughter into the world.”
He finished by addressing his mother: “Mum, I’ll never stop trying to make you laugh.”
Taylor Swift performed her song New Year’s Day on the episode, which eerily references squeezing a hand three times in the lyrics.
The Tonight Show producer Mike DiCenzo revealed on Twitter that she was not scheduled to appear but did so in support of Fallon.
“[Taylor] was not scheduled to do our show today ... but we wanted something special for this first show back [after Fallon’s mother’s death], so we asked her on a complete whim, since she had been in town doing SNL. She said yes with zero hesitation.
First, a quick word about Taylor Swift. She was not scheduled to do our show today. But we wanted something special for this first show back, so we asked her on a complete whim, since she had been in town doing SNL. She said yes with zero hesitation.
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.
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.
“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.”
Swift and Fallon shared a long hug at the end of her performance.
“That hug between Jimmy and Taylor after the song was 100% real emotion. Whatever you think of Taylor, she did something beautiful for Jimmy and our show today, and we’re forever grateful.”
This article originally appeared on the New York Post and has been republished with permission.