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A solemn Jimmy Fallon returned to "The Tonight Show" on Monday night, just nine days after the death of his mother.
"She was the best audience," Fallon said. "She was the one I was always trying to make laugh."
Fallon then shared a childhood memory of his mother, Gloria, walking hand in hand with him and his sister to the store.
"She would squeeze my hand three times and say, 'I love you,' and I would squeeze back 'I love you too,'" Fallon recalled.
He took a moment to compose himself before continuing.
"Last week I was in the hospital and I was by her side and I grabbed her hand and I squeezed 'I love you,'" Fallon said, falling silent and shaking his head to indicate that his mother did not respond.
"I just knew we were in trouble."
"The Tonight Show" was off last week to allow Fallon time to be with his family. But Monday it was back with guests Jeff Daniels, Mary J. Blige and a surprise appearance by Taylor Swift, who debuted a song from her new album with some painfully relevant lyrics.
From "New Year's Day," an emotional ballad from "Reputation," Swift sang: "You squeeze my hand three times in the back of the taxi / I can tell that it's gonna be a long road / I'll be there if you're the toast of the town, babe / Or if you strike out and you're crawling home."
After her performance, a visibly moved Fallon exchanged a long hug with Swift.