Carol Burnett Remembers Daughter Carrie 21 Years After Her Passing: ‘She Was a Force

Carol Burnett, an enduring icon in comedy, is set to celebrate her 91st birthday this month.

As this significant milestone approaches, Burnett has been reflecting on her remarkable life and career. However, in a recent interview, she shared insights into a heartbreaking loss that continues to weigh on her mind, even after more than two decades.

Carol Burnett, the legendary entertainer, had three daughters with her former husband, producer Joe Hamilton. Their eldest daughter, Carrie Hamilton, was born in 1963.

Carrie followed in her famous mother’s footsteps by pursuing a career in acting. She landed a significant role on the TV series “Fame” and portrayed Maureen in the first national tour of the musical “Rent.” Additionally, she appeared in several TV shows, including “The X-Files,” “Murder, She Wrote,” and “thirtysomething.”

However, Carrie’s path was not without its challenges. As a teenager, she struggled with drug addiction, which was a source of deep heartache for Burnett. In a 2020 interview with AARP, Burnett shared her tough-love approach to parenting during those difficult times: “My daughter Carrie got into drugs. In that situation, don’t be their best friend,” she said. “When we got her into a third rehab, oh, she hated my guts! You have to love them enough to let them hate you.”

In a 2002 interview with ABC News, Burnett expressed her inner turmoil and self-doubt following her daughter’s struggles: “I thought … was there something I should have seen, something I should have known, something I would have spotted? You know, what did I miss? Was I not strong enough?”

However, Burnett shared with AARP that Carrie achieved sobriety by the age of 18, leading to a deeply close relationship between them. “We had a good 20 years where we were joined at the hip,” Burnett recounted.

Carrie’s career was flourishing and her relationship with her mother was stronger than ever—until tragedy struck. In 2001, Carrie was diagnosed with lung cancer, which later metastasized to her brain.

NEW YORK, NY – CIRCA 1983: Carol Burnett with daughter Carrie Hamilton circa 1983 in New York City. (Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images)

Carrie’s cancer battle

But like her mother, Carrie possessed a resilient sense of humor, which she leaned on throughout her ordeal. “Carrie had a spirit about her, all through her treatments,” Burnett shared with ABC News.

Burnett was deeply inspired by her daughter’s outlook. “In the hospital, she said, ‘Every day I wake up and decide, today I’m going to love my life.’ That became her mantra.”

Carrie passed away in 2002 at the age of 38. The loss was heartbreaking for Burnett, but she found the strength to persevere in the face of her daughter’s untimely death.

“You don’t get over it, but you cope,” Burnett explained to People in 2018. “What else can you do? When Carrie passed away, I didn’t want to get out of bed for a while, but I had a play to finish that we had started and Hal Prince was set to direct. I owed it to Carrie, and I owed it to Hal.”

21 Years On: Always Present

In a recent interview leading up to her 90th birthday, Carol Burnett reflected on her daughter’s passing, over two decades later, revealing that Carrie remains in her thoughts daily.

“There’s not a day, hardly a moment, that goes by when she’s not with me,” Burnett shared with People Magazine. “We worked together, we laughed together, we cried together. She was a force.”

American comedian and actress Carol Burnett and her daughter, American actress Carrie Hamilton (1963-2002), event unspecified, in New York City, New York, 1996. (Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

She notes that her daughter’s resilience during her illness continues to inspire her.

“During her illness, I visited her in the hospital every day,” Burnett recalled. “One day, a nurse told me, ‘Carrie cheers us up.’ When I asked Carrie why she always seemed so cheerful, she said, ‘Every day I wake up and decide.’ That word, decide, is crucial.”

“I remind myself of that every morning,” Burnett added.

Burnett celebrated her 91st birthday on April 26. Despite the heartbreaking loss she experienced 21 years ago, she continues to thrive and maintains a positive outlook on life.

Recently, Burnett has been honored with several lifetime achievement awards, including the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. In 2019, the Golden Globes named their television lifetime achievement award after her, dubbing it the “Carol Burnett Award,” with Burnett as its inaugural recipient. Last year, she made a notable return to television with a guest appearance on “Better Call Saul.”

Reflecting on turning 90, the legendary comedian told People, “I can’t wrap my head around it. I still feel like I’m about 11, but I’m amazed. It sure went fast. But I’m glad because I’ve got all my parts — got my hips, I got my knees and I’ve got my brain, so I’m happy about that.”

Losing a child is an unimaginably painful experience, and it’s evident that Carrie’s passing has deeply affected Carol Burnett. However, we’re heartened to see that this comedy legend continues to thrive. We wish her a joyful upcoming 90th birthday!

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