'Conan' Writer Laurie Kilmartin Opens Up About Mom's COVID-19 Death

Laurie Kilmartin performs on stage - October 17, 2016 - Getty -H 2020
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Kilmartin documented the end of her mother's life with comedic tweets.

Conan writer Laurie Kilmartin opened up about losing her mother to COVID-19 and documenting the end of her mom's life in a series of comedic tweets in an interview with Conan O'Brien on Wednesday's edition of O'Brien's eponymous TBS late-night show.

Kilmartin's mother, JoAnn, caught the disease after she was taken to a nursing facility following a hospital stay and died in June.

"I guess, like every comic, you don't like to sit in a feeling too long, you like to pull yourself out of it, and the best way for us to do it is write a little joke about it," she said on Wednesday's episode. 

Kilmartin revealed that writing jokes on Twitter wasn't an unfamiliar coping mechanism, noting that she had done the same when her father died of lung cancer. "I have a specialty now," she joked on Conan.

She also said that tweeting about her mother's illness = also was a way to inform followers and readers about the "strange and surreal" realities of a COVID-19-related death. Kilmartin shared some of her tweets on Wednesday, including one that memorialized her mother's last words. 


She went on to read more tweets, including one where she left a low Yelp review for the "skilled nursing facility" where her mother contracted the disease. In other tweets, Kilmartin also mocked her mother's political preferences.


O'Brien and Kilmartin went on to discuss what it's like to lose a family member to COVID-19. The writer, who compared her mother's death to that of her father's, had only one word to describe it: awful. 

"COVID took her to a place where she couldn't speak almost immediately," she said. "She was alone in a room; the people who came in to take care of her were dressed head-to-toe in plastic."

Kilmartin continued to share the experience of watching her mother suffer with the disease. She said she and her sister would monitor their mother on an iPad where they would tell her about daily activities, like making eggs, and any life updates, like getting a puppy.

Speaking about the pandemic in general, when it comes to people wearing masks or not, Kilmartin said the messaging should be different.

"I think our huge mistake was telling Americans a mask will protect somebody else," she said. "We're pretty selfish people. We don't care about other people, so let's pivot and say, 'A mask will protect you from an awful death,' and maybe that'll turn things around."

Watch the full interview below.