Veteran television host Kathie Lee Gifford was moved to tears on Wednesday while discussing how evangelist Billy Graham "changed [her] life forever" by helping lead her family to the Christian faith and by guiding her through personal struggles.
Television host Kathie Lee Gifford (Credit: NBC's "TODAY")
As part of week-long "#InspiredBy" series on NBC's "TODAY," Gifford recounted how Graham has impacted her life the past five decades and how she first learned of his ministry at the tender age of 12.
Gifford recalled arriving home one day to find her mother and sister kneeling and sobbing in front of the television screen.
While she initially thought something terrible had happened, she realized that they were watching and reacting to one of Graham's "crusades" (the evangelist regularly hosted these large-scale stadium events that were often broadcast on television).
"Both of them had come to faith by watching the power of his message through a television screen," Gifford said of her mother and sister.
It was later that same year that Gifford, too, became a Christian while attending a showing of "The Restless Ones," a film that was produced by Graham's organization. Gifford said she felt God reaching out to her in that theater.
"I felt that I heard God (speak) to me, and not audibly. It wasn't a weird thing," she said. "It was a magnificently sweet and simple thing. 'I love you, Kathie, and if you'll trust me with your life, I will make something beautiful out of it.'"
At the end of the movie, individuals were invited to come up to the front of the theater to accept Jesus and become Christians.
"I could not get out of my seat fast enough. I flat-out believed the whole thing," she said. "I've never stopped believing it."
Later in life, she had an opportunity to get to know Graham personally and now considers him a close friend. Gifford fondly recalled the evangelist's appearance on her 1994 Christmas special. When he arrived at her home and she offered him anything that might make him more comfortable, he had a comical response.
"Could I have a Big Mac?" she remembers Graham asking.
"And I just thought 'Billy Graham likes Big Macs! You've got to love it. He's just human," Gifford fondly recalled.
Gifford became emotional in sharing some of the more personal moments she's had with Graham, particularly when her husband, Frank, had an affair and the evangelist became a source of comfort.
"When my husband was unfaithful to me and it was a terrible time, you know who Billy called first? Frank. He called Frank first. Then I got on the line," Gifford said, while dabbing tears with a tissue. "He wanted to talk to both of us. He knew that healing had to be from both of us."
Watch her describe these experiences below:
Gifford went on to say that when Graham, who just turned 95, leaves this earth, she will be sad to lose her friend, but happy over where she believes he's headed in the afterlife.
"I will be overjoyed with love for him and gratitude that he's in heaven and his struggle will be over -- and the Lord will say to him, 'Well done my good and faithful servant.'"
Graham delivered what was dubbed his final sermon last week. Titled "The Cross," the sermon recapped the Christian gospel he has been preaching throughout his life. You can read more about that message and watch it in its entirety here.
(H/T: Urban Christian News)