Why Patti LaBelle Regrets Not Making Her Sister the 'Best Egg Sandwich' One Day Before Her Death
As an avid cook, Patti LaBelle has plenty of memories in the kitchen — some good and some sad.
"Everyone who knows me, they know for sure that I'm a singer. Second, they know that I'm a cook," the legendary gospel singer, 78, said on the latest episode of Time to Walk, a series on Apple Watch and iPhone for Fitness+ that combines stories from celebrities with photos and a curated playlist. "It's a generational thing with my family because they all cook so well, the grandmothers and the aunts and everyone."
Outside the family, LaBelle's musical friends knew of her culinary expertise and would ask her for home-cooked meals. In one instance she made Mick Jagger "about 15 items," ranging from brisket and cornbread to pies. In another story, she cooked for Elton John "when he was Reggie Dwight" and claims that his band accidentally took her Tupperware. (John later traded her a set of rings to make up for it, she said.)
When she's on tour, LaBelle prioritizes her health, especially after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1994, and cooks meals for herself and her crew.
"I've been taking my pots and pans in a trunk, and I have my hot plates that I plug in, and I find a farmers market, and I feed the crew and the band and everybody because you can't eat good on the road," she said.
Paul Morigi/Getty for AIDS Healthcare Foundation
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Her more solemn food memory stems from an instance nearly 50 years ago.
Her younger sister Jackie, whom LaBelle called her "biggest fan," was diagnosed with a brain tumor in her late 30s. Jackie's chemotherapy treatment took place not far from LaBelle's home, but the musician had been gone while on tour. As soon as she returned, she reached out to her sister.
"When I got home from touring, I called to see how she was doing. And she said, 'Oh, I'm fine. I just want an egg sandwich.' She always loved anything I cooked, especially the egg sandwich. And you know the hospital food was sucking. So, no, she needed some real food from her sister," she recalled.
"I made the best egg sandwiches for her in the world, and that's what she wanted. But I just got home from the airport so I said, 'Can I do it tomorrow and have it for your breakfast?' And she said, 'Yeah, sure.'"
The following morning, LaBelle was prepping to make breakfast before hearing the news that her sister had died.
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"First call I got the next day was from my Aunt Hattie Mae, who said, 'Sugar, don't rush with the sandwich. Your sister just passed on.' She died at 44," she said. Patti's other two sisters — Barbara and Vivian — also died of cancer in their early 40s.
The moment weighs heavily on LaBelle's heart, even decades later. "I surely didn't think she was going to pass that day," she said. "And so I've been holding this guilt for all of these years, and I can't take it back. I can't do it over again. I mean, I'm stuck with that in my memory for life."
The Grammy winner doesn't want anyone else to harbor the same guilt and advised fans not to "hold back from giving your loved ones anything they might want. Just give them your time and don't say, 'I'll do it tomorrow,' because it don't cost you nothing."