Lynn Harless, Justin Timberlake's mother, sent TODAY style contributor Bobbie Thomas a text message following her return to the TODAY show more than a year after the death of her husband.
"Dear Bobbie, it feels like you see me. It feels like you created this new segment for those of us who wake up every day and struggle to put on our happy faces, so the ones we love don’t see our anguish," Harless wrote.
Harless' husband and Timberlake's stepfather, Paul Harless, has been living with dementia for more than a decade. She joined Bobbie to share her experience caring for her husband on TODAY.
"I try to push my grief down every day while I’m here walking through it and missing the intimacy of just a conversation or a touch," Harless continued in her message to Bobbie. "People don’t know how to act around Paul. They keep their distance, and it makes the loneliness so dark and if possible, even more sad."
Harless joined Bobbie, who she's known since Timberlake's NSYNC days in the 1990s, along with former TODAY co-host Kathie Lee Gifford and Little Big Town's Kimberly Schlapman to talk about their experiences with grief.
Bobbie's husband, Michael Marion, died in late 2020 after suffering an ischemic stroke in April 2019 at age 40. Gifford lost her husband, Frank Gifford, in 2015, and Schlapman's husband, Steven Roads, died of a heart attack in 2005.
When Thomas asked Harless how she cares for her husband every day, Harless said, "You take all the little moments that you can get."
"He knows everything that’s going on around him. He just doesn’t speak anymore very often," she added. "I want to take every opportunity and make the most of every day."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dementia is not a specific disease, but a general term for "the impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions," and it "interferes with doing everyday activities."
Harless told Bobbie she wants other people to know it’s important to "just be there."
"Show up and be there," she said. "Makes all the difference."
Schlapman and Gifford discussed how they were able to find love and joy again after the death of their husbands, with Bobbie adding that her husband lives on in her son, Miles.
"You’re not moving on. You’re moving forward," Schlapman said.
"You’re not leaving anything behind," Harless agreed. "You’re taking it with you."
This article was originally published on TODAY.com