The Heartbreaking Story Behind Taylor Swift’s Surprise Tonight Show Performance

After celebrating the release of Reputation with two performances on Saturday Night Live over the weekend, Taylor Swift made a surprise appearance on The Tonight Show on Monday. Not only did Swift perform her new single, “New Year’s Day,” which debuted during ABC’s TGIT programming last week, but it was also Jimmy Fallon‘s first show since the passing of his mom, Gloria Fallon, earlier this month.

Show writer and producer Mike DiCenzo later revealed on Twitter that even though Swift wasn’t scheduled to perform, she did so anyway as a tribute to Fallon’s late mom. “First, a quick word about Taylor Swift,” he tweeted. “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.”

In another tweet, DiCenzo explained how one of the lyrics in the song unintentionally matched up to the story Fallon told about his mom squeezing his hand three times to say “I love you” when he was a child. “She sang ‘New Year’s Day.’ No one had heard it,” he wrote. “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.” Watch the emotional performance above now.