Kathie Lee Gifford on Faith, Grief and Eternity

By   •   October 5, 2015

Billy Graham was a guest on 'Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee' in 1991.

When Today show personality Kathie Lee Gifford was just 12 years old, she met Jesus. But she didn’t meet Him in a church. She didn’t even meet Him at home.

She met Him at the cinema.

After all, she wanted to be a singer and an actress—so He simply met her where she was.

The Restless Ones (1965)—the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s first movie shown in a mainstream theater—was a story about the crossroads teenagers face, and the solution that is found only in Christ. After the film was shown, there was an altar call at the front of the theater for those who wanted to surrender their lives to Him.

Kathie Lee still has vivid memories of that night 50 years ago: “I could not get out of my seat fast enough. I just believed it. And I’ve never stopped believing, in all these years. (It was) the greatest decision I made in my life.”

Kathie Lee said of the Christian life: “We wake up with the best of intentions. We want to serve the Lord, and we want to glorify Him. Yet, we can be ungodly, unkind and unchristian. That is a constant reminder that we can’t do it on our own.” (Photo by: Andrew Eccles/NBC)

The decision to follow Christ was the foundation that carried her when she moved to Los Angeles to begin her career in show business. It also sustained her when she went through life struggles.

And most recently, it strengthened her when she lost her husband of nearly 30 years, Frank Gifford, on Aug. 9.

She explained that while she grieves his death, she rejoices because he is with his Savior and has his reward.

“When I found my husband (the morning he died), he had such a look of astonishment on his face: his eyes were wide open and his mouth almost had almost a smile on it. One of the EMTs, who arrived shortly after he died, told me, ‘Mrs. Gifford, I hope it brings you comfort to know your husband never hit the ground.’

“That brings to mind that wonderful Scripture that says that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. I believe that when my husband walked through the door of our sun porch, he saw Jesus and He literally took his breath away. Frank loved his life, his children and me. But he wouldn’t come back for anything in the world. I have great joy in knowing he has an incorruptible body that will never age and never fall apart.”

Kathie Lee explained that Frank grew in his faith exponentially during his last few years. A pivotal point in his spiritual life was when the two of them joined a tour group in the Holy Land two years ago.

“That trip transformed him. I never questioned that Frank was saved for eternity. But a lot of people just have a one-time experience with God and just stay there. They don’t realize what an incredible adventure that walking with the Lord can be. He just has so much more planned for us,” she said.

“That’s what Frank understood through Bible study and through the church we started attending a few years ago. It was so exciting to see him grow as a Christian.”

Billy Graham and the Giffords

At it turned out, Billy Graham’s involvement in Kathie Lee’s life extended far beyond The Restless Ones and her experience in the cinema. Years, later, she would meet him through a mutual friend, and he would befriend her and Frank.

Billy Graham with the Giffords at their home in 1994 when he visited to film the Christmas special. (Photo credit: ‘Today’ show)

One of her favorite memories, she recalled, was the time Billy Graham visited her home to participate in the filming of a Christmas special in 1994. He was to sit in a chair by the Giffords’ fireplace and read the Christmas story from Luke chapter two.

Upon his arrival, Kathie Lee asked him if there was anything he wanted.

“And then he said, ‘Anything?’ And I said, ‘Of course. Anything.’ Then he said, ‘I’d like a Big Mac.’ So Frank drove to our local McDonald’s and picked up 40 Big Macs for Billy, for us, and the crew who would be there to film,” laughed Kathie Lee.

“It is such a sweet memory.”

The last time the Giffords saw Billy Graham was at his 95th birthday party.

“He just told me, ‘I love you, Kathie Lee.’ I still cry now, just thinking that it was the last time I’ll probably see him on earth. I’m so glad to have had another chance to tell him how much I love him, and how much he’s meant to my life and to my family,” she said tearfully.

“And I’m grateful to God for not just allowing me to know Billy and to come to the Lord through him, but for the chance to become his friend.”

Billy Graham’s Legacy Continues Through Kathie Lee

Billy Graham just released his last book, Where I Am, as a legacy to those he leaves behind when God calls him home. And like the man that led her—and her immediate family members—to the Lord, Kathie Lee wants to leave a legacy.

But hers is not in the form of a book—it is in the hope she shares with those around her and in the way she has prepared her children for life.

“I’m so thankful that Cody (25) and Cassidy (22) love God and seek Him in their lives. The biggest obligation of Christians who have children is to make sure their children are given everything they need to go out into the world with the full armor of God,” she said.

“After that, I never want to resist a chance to share Jesus with everyone I meet, who is open to it. I let the Holy Spirit lead. Usually, I don’t have to say a word. Someone says something to me first, which invites me to share the Word. The trouble with our world is religion, when what we need is a relationship with living God.”

KLG BG Party
The Giffords (far left) came to honor Billy Graham at his 95th birthday party. Kathie Lee once said of him, “I’ve never met, in my life, a more powerful man who is as humble as Billy.”

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  1. Dale says:

    Lovely testimony! Billy Graham has lived a full life of service to the Lord.

  2. Janice v chappell says:

    I remember the first time I saw Billy Graham. I was just arriving at my grandmothers and she had your crusade on. I watched it with her and I had just been baptist at twelve. The Holy Spirit filled me and I wanted to know more! I went to Sunday school and church and fellowship at night and started reading the Bible. I had learned a lot before that but kept moving on to know more about our prophets. Thank the Lord for all he has shown me and for the Holy Spirit to fill me each day! Please pray for my children that have distanced themselves from the Lord.

  3. Berki Banko says:

    I am evangelist Berki Banko.
    I pray for your minister and pray for me.
    my area people.

  4. Dorrie says:

    A wonderful testimony Mrs Gifford. many didn’t know you were such a committed follower of Christ. I like your statement that “we don’t need religion we need a genuine relationship with our Lord and Saviour”. Thanks for sharing…

  5. Dennis Scharf says:

    I followed Graham’s most of my life, Working to the day I had a severe brain accident 11 yrs ago. It took 8 yrs to come back, not fully normal but able to communicate & work on more positive Godly matters that needed refining. And to gain items back cause I lost everything. I even remembered working a fire in Fallbrook California before my accident that still astounds me today. I only remember parts of it. Mostly helping people in major burned out situations and some in total loss of everything. Then running all of a sudden into saved individuals doing ALL they could from immediate Prayer to transporting them to safer areas, then picked up to go to huge trucks converted into hospital trucks by Billy Graham Ministries A team Blessing! Still

  6. Brooke mik says:

    I love Billy Graham! I just thank God for his life and his testimony.

  7. jackie says:

    I too found the Lord when I was 12 at the showing of Oil Town USA and the Lord has been so good to me through my years and oh how many times I have failed but he picks me gives me strength to move forward thank you for the Blessed life I am not what I want to be but Hes not finished with me yet God Bless my prayers to all BG ministry

  8. Beverly Hayes says:

    Hi Mr. Graham, we thank God Almighty for you, your family and Ministry. You are truly a Blessing to all, May God continue to Bless and Strenghthen each one. God Bless You.


    Beverly Hayes and Family, High Point, NC

  9. Susan Pabst says:

    I have always loved Billy Graham (and Kathie Lee too) and 2 years ago, on Dr Graham’s birthday, my Nick met the Lord thru the show Dr Graham had on!!! That makes him so precious to my heart!!!! He is such a gift from God!!! I love Franklin too and will always follow the ministry and pray for them all!!!

  10. Joanne Vargas says:

    Thank you for this wonderful story of God’s love and grace. Billy Graham always stayed on the straight truth of the gospel, never going to the right or left as some Evangelist have done. A trustworthy man of God. His family is carrying on his Godly tradition, a life lived sharing the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Thank you.