Back in April, Lori Loughlin was officially cut from all future When Calls the Heart episodes, despite the fact that the sixth season had already started airing. Now that the show has finally returned after its hiatus in the wake of the college admissions scandal, the residents of Hope Valley finally explained what happened to mayor Abigail Stanton. In the May 5 episode, the fourth of the season, Elizabeth, played by Erin Krakow, shares with the audience that the mayor had to leave town to take care of her sick mother. The character’s removal is revealed in the first minutes of the show.

“We never know how life will turn. It’s been a week since Abigail got word that her mother had taken ill back east,” Elizabeth’s voice-over shares as she’s seen writing a letter. “True to her nature, Abigail wasted no time in rushing off to care for her. Abigail is much more than a friend. She’s family. And I will miss her and Cody deeply. We all will. But we must get by as best we can. Bill has taken over some of the responsibilities in the café. Clara, as busy as she is, has agreed to help out when she can. We all keep Abigail and her family in our prayers and wish her God speed. In her absence, we must soldier on and we will. We are a community. We are strong. We are Hope Valley.”

In the original teaser for the episode, the mayor played a big part in welcoming a newcomer to town — but now other characters are taking over that role, as Elizabeth explains in her letter. The reveal also leaves the door open for Lori to potentially return one day, but it’s also fairly definitive. Of course, it also suggests that the cast and crew of the show still care deeply about the actress and are wishing her well. But, like the character said, they “must get by as best they can.”

Of course, fans of the show knew this had been in the works for a while. Lori was removed from the season 6 promo poster by April 23. Crown Media, the company that owns Hallmark Channel, had announced they would “no longer” be working with the actress on March 14. “We are saddened by the recent news surrounding the college admissions allegations,” they shared in a statement at the time. “We are no longer working with Lori Loughlin and have stopped development of all productions that air on the Crown Media Family Network channels involving Lori Loughlin including Garage Sale Mysteries, an independent third party production.” Of course, seeing it is different than hearing about it — but hopefully, the love the characters shared for Abigail will help fans through it.

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