“I spoke to her husband [Dr. Robert Levine] the day or so before she passed away,” Reiner told Entertainment Tonight. “I remember telling him, ‘She may not hear you, but whisper in her ear that it’s okay to go. You can go.’ “
The iconic actress, who played Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show from 1961–66, died on Wednesday at age 80. A source told PEOPLE she had been on a ventilator and had been hospitalized with pneumonia due to complications from her diabetes, and according to her longtime rep, she passed away in the company of friends and her husband of more than 33 years.
“She had this childhood diabetes and had lost her sight — practically all of it,” Reiner recalled of seeing Moore for the last time at an event. “I came up to her, and she was looking at me, and she wasn’t recognizing me until I spoke, and then she lit up. I realized she couldn’t see me, and that was very sad.”
Speaking about her final months, Reiner said that they all knew the actress’ time was winding down, but her death still came as a shock.
“She spent her last months at home with hospice people around, not communicative,” said Reiner. “We had known about it for a while, but you’re never not shocked. When I turned on the television and learned Mary had gone, it was a shock. At 80. I’m 94 now, and I hope to go a few more years. I’ve got work to do.”
“Mary, you were the greatest,” Reiner expressed to the outlet. “You and Dick [Van Dyke] defined my life at one period, and I’ll never forget you for what you did for me by being Laura Petrie.”