Not a Moment Goes By When Carol Burnett Isn’t Thinking About Her Late Daughter, Carrie Hamilton – Who Passed Away of Cancer in 2002

Earlier this year, the world took a moment to celebrate Carol Burnett – who turned 90 years old on April 26. For those who missed it, her birthday was the subject of a two-hour TV special – Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love – that aired on her birthday on NBC and Peacock. It’s 100% worth the watch!

In the leadup to her special, Burnett kept herself busy with interview after interview. Everyone wanted to speak with her and most outlets got the chance to – including PEOPLE, who featured her in an April issue of their magazine. It was a wonderful interview with plenty of sound bites – as you would expect from her.

One of the things she discussed was her late daughter, Carrie Hamilton – one of three children she shares with her second husband, Joe Hamilton. Carrie followed in her mother’s footsteps as an actress and singer, but struggled with substance abuse and eventually died of lung and brain cancer in 2002. 

RELATED: Carol Burnett Reflects on Her Legendary and Iconic Career Ahead of Her 90th Birthday on April 26

Carrie Hamilton was just 38 years old when she died – she would be celebrating her 60th birthday in December if she were still alive. While her life was cut short, the impact she had on other people’s lives is still felt to this day – including her mother, who still carries her memory of her everywhere she goes.

“There’s not a day or almost a moment goes by that she’s not with me. We worked together, we laughed together, we cried together. She was a force,” Carol Burnett said to PEOPLE in April – a few weeks before she turned 90. In fact, she still remembers a piece of advice her daughter told her before she died.

“When she got sick, I remember she was in the hospital and I would go to see her every day. One day, a nurse at the hospital said, ‘Carrie cheers us up.’ I asked Carrie why she was always cheerful, and her reply was, ‘Everyday I wake up and decide.’ That’s the key word, decide,” Carol said of her daughter. 

It’s something she reminds herself of every single morning she wakes up. It reminds her how fragile this life can be and reminds her to take this life one day at a time. “You don’t know. Life can change on a dime. So just be grateful for today what you have,” she added – something we can all do a little more of.

Carol Burnett and Carrie Hamilton Co-Wrote a Play Called ‘Hollywood Arms’

In the years leading up to Carrie Hamilton’s death on January 20, 2002, she helped co-write a play – titled Hollywood Arms – with her mother, Carol Burnett. The dramedy was based on Burnett’s 1986 memoir titled One More Time, which told the story of her childhood, upbringing, and rise to Hollywood success.

Unfortunately, Carrie Hamilton never got to see the play come to life – something that devastated Carol. It was her husband who convinced her to finish it in honor of her daughter. He told her that she owed it not only to Carrie, but to the director (Hal Prince) to finish what they started. So that’s exactly what she did. 

The play premiered on April 9, 2002 – not even three months after her daughter’s death – at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. It eventually made its way to Broadway, where it ran at the Cort Theatre for 76 performances and 28 previews. The play was an enormous success, as it was expected.

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“We’re on the plane, my husband and I, to Chicago, and I said a little prayer to Carrie,” Carol Burnett said of its premiere. “I said, ‘I’m going to be doing this but I don’t want to be alone. Be with me. Somehow be with me. I need a sign you’re going to be with me even though you’re not present physically.'”

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