It's been a tough, emotional election cycle for many Americans, but for Brianna Keilar, the turmoil leading up to Nov. 8 has proven especially difficult. The CNN correspondent recalls how her life on the campaign trail was altered forever in May, when she received a call from her dad as the plane she was on prepared to take off and transport her to the Kentucky primary. Keilar found out her mom was in the hospital with what her father thought was "just an infection"—but it turned out to be acute leukemia, an aggressively moving disease that took her mom's life by the next day. "I thought the hardest thing I would deal with in 2016 was covering the election," Keilar writes, noting that the days after her mom's death were a whirlwind of cremation and memorial service preparations mixed in with covering political rallies—supplemented by support from her loved ones and wine, she notes.
"The moments that stand out to me [aren't] the ones that stood out before she died: interviewing Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump," she writes. Instead, she recalls her days on the road before her mom passed, when she'd excitedly text Keilar on primary nights, sometimes in the style of the candidates themselves, and lecture Keilar how to speak properly when conversing with Wolf Blitzer. Keilar says the election was her mom's "all-you-can-eat reality show buffet." The CNN reporter also poignantly remembers a night when she and her producer crashed at her parents' place after a connecting flight near her hometown was canceled. That evening included In-N-Out burgers, a night of conversation and laughter in her childhood home, and a final hug before Keilar headed off to work. "It was the last time I saw her," she writes. (Read her entire tribute to her mom here.)