Don Lemon CNN theGrio.com
(Photo: CNN)

On Tuesday night, Don Lemon returned to CNN after taking time off to mourn his sister’s unexpected passing.

L’Tanya “Leisa” Lemon Grimes, Lemon’s beloved older sister, reportedly fell into a pond in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, last week and subsequently died, according to The Times-Picayune.

Lemon was noticeably absent from his CNN show while he mourned the unexpected loss. But when he returned to the CNN anchor desk, he gave an emotional message to his viewers.

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“First off, many of you have noticed that I have not been here,” Don Lemon said. “My older sister died unexpectedly last week and I am back sitting with you tonight because this is exactly where she would have wanted me to be.”

“Leisa was so proud of me, and all she wanted for Christmas last year was a new CNN Tonight T-shirt,” he added.

An outpouring of support

Don Lemon went on to thank his viewers for their outpouring of love.

“I want all of you to know that your prayers and your words of encouragement have meant the world to me and my family over the last few days,” he said. “So many of you have reached out to me that I can’t respond to all of them, so I want to respond now and please pass this on.”

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“There’s so much conflict happening right now, I think it’s important for all Americans to know that when something like this happens, it tends to bring out the best in people. Some of my competitors, people I have raging arguments with on television—you think we hate each other, but we don’t,” he continued.

To name just a few, he said that Sean Hannity, Tamron Hall, Megyn Kelly and Wendy Williams had all been there for him. He also thanked his CNN team for “taking care of me,” and said that some even “packed my bags and took care of my travel arrangements.”

He also singled out CNN President Jeff Zucker for staying by his side.

“You don’t know how much this meant to me Jeff Zucker, but I will never forget that you wouldn’t leave my office and you wouldn’t go home until I got in the car, on the plane. So, I want to thank you and Karen and my little brother, my bro, Andrew,” an emotional Lemon said through tears, according to People.

Lemon also thanked his family and his boyfriend, Tim Malone: “To Tim, the love of my life, who got on a plane without asking and then sat in my mom’s driveway for two hours. I love you.”

Then, after taking a moment to get a handle on his emotions, Don Lemon went right to the news, earning plenty of respect.