Carol Burnett Says Not ‘a Moment Goes by’ When She’s Not Thinking of Her Daughter Carrie Who Died 21 Years Ago

The comedy legend’s eldest daughter Carrie Hamilton died in 2002 after being diagnosed with cancer

PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty
PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty

Later this month, Carol Burnett will celebrate turning 90. While her nine decades have been filled with career success, the comedian has also dealt with major loss, including the death of her daughter Carrie Hamilton — one of the three daughters Burnett welcomed with second husband Joe Hamilton — in 2002.

“There’s not a day or almost a moment goes by that she’s not with me,” Burnett tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “We worked together, we laughed together, we cried together. She was a force.”

Like her mom, Hamilton worked as an actress. She starred in the Fame TV series as Reggie Higgins, as well as movies Tokyo Pop and Shag. Hamilton also did an episode of Carol & Company with Burnett in 1990, and the two cowrote a play, Hollywood Arms, based on Burnett’s memoir about her childhood.

RELATED VIDEO: Carol Burnett on Turning 90 — and Cherishing Her Hips and Knees: ‘I Still Feel Like I’m About 11’

Hamilton struggled with drug addiction and in 2002 was diagnosed with cancer that started in her lungs and spread to her brain. She died the following January at age 38.

“When she got sick, I remember she was in the hospital and I would go to see her every day,” Burnett recalls. “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.”

Now, Burnett says, “I say that to myself every morning.”

Ari + Louise
Ari + Louise

Related:10 Dazzling Carol Burnett Throwback Photos That’ll Take You Back in Time

The six-time Golden Globe winner realizes how fragile life can be.

“It’s taking [it] one day at a time,” Burnett says. “You don’t know. Life can change on a dime. So just be grateful for today what you have.”

Ari + Louise
Ari + Louise

For more on Carol Burnett, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

Carol Burnett: 90 Years of Laughter + Love airs April 26 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC and streams on Peacock the next day.

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