Kathie Lee Gifford reflects on the last time she saw Regis Philbin before his death
Kathie Lee Gifford expressed her gratitude for being able to see her beloved former co-host and longtime friend Regis Philbin just a few weeks before his death at 88 last week.
Gifford had lunch with Philbin and his wife, Joy, at Gifford's Connecticut home, where they all shared some laughs together one last time.
"I was just so grateful the Lord gave me that final time," Gifford said on TODAY Monday. "And it was so precious because when I talked to Joy the day that I found out right after he had passed, she said, 'Kathie he hadn't laughed in a long, long time.' She said, 'I was so worried about him.'
"I think he was like Frank. He was just ready, you know? ... And she said, 'The day that we came to have lunch with you was the last time I heard him laugh.' That will forever be a precious gift the Lord gave me, that I got to laugh again with one of my best friends in all my lifetime."
Philbin, who died at 88 on July 24, co-hosted "Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee" with Gifford from 1985 until 2000, becoming known for their spontaneous banter and finishing one another's sentences.
"There are no words to fully express the love I have for my precious friend, Regis," the former co-host of TODAY's fourth hour wrote on Instagram. "I simply adored him and every day with him was a gift. We spent 15 years together bantering and bickering and laughing ourselves silly — a tradition and a friendship we shared up to this very day.
"I smile knowing somewhere in Heaven, at this very moment, he's making someone laugh," she continued. "It brings me great comfort knowing that he had a personal relationship with his Lord that brought him great peace. I send all the love in my heart to Joy, to his children, to the rest of his family and to the innumerable people he touched over his legendary life. There has never been anyone like him. And there never will be."
Tributes to Philbin also poured in from celebrities who sat on the couch to be interviewed by him or worked alongside him.
Gifford and Philbin remained close after she left the show, with Philbin often popping up as a guest on the fourth hour of TODAY after Gifford returned to television in 2008.
Last April, Philbin surprised Gifford with a heartfelt message on her final day at TODAY after she had previously announced she was leaving the show.
"Kathie Lee, you want to know the best part of my life, my TV life, was in the 15 years I spent with you from 1985 to 2000," he said. "We stayed friends through the entire game, and it was a lot of fun. Where you are right now I know you're going to be moving on to a great new career making movies, and since I've seen the first one, I know you're going to be a great success. I really mean it."