On February 21, the world lost the incomparable Reverend Billy Graham. At 99 years old, the Christian minister had changed the lives of millions of people, teaching them the ways of the Lord. Graham had been ill and withdrawn from the public eye for many years now. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1992, and hospitalized for pneumonia in 2011.
Graham died of natural causes, according to Ted Shearer of DeMoss Associates, at his mountaintop cabin in North Carolina.
Preaching from the age 16, Graham devoted his life to bring others the news he knew to be true. It is believed that he preached to more than 210 million people in 185 countries, which doesn't include magazines, radio shows, television broadcasts, and internet readings.
One of the people who was touched by Graham was TODAY host Kathie Lee Gifford.
"My whole family came to faith through the Billy Graham Organization," Gifford told Megyn Kelly. "And I personally did, going to the first movie the Billy Graham Organization ever put out, it was called The Restless Ones. And it was like God met me, my heart, right where I lived! I wanted to be an actress. So where does God meet me? In a movie theater."
"My father is Jewish, my mom Christian, and although we didn’t have a devout home, it was just sort of an understanding of that Judeo-Christian tradition in our home," she continued. "It was Billy that connected the dots for me. Billy made the message simple enough for a little 12-year-old girl in the back of a movie theater to understand."
So why was it that Gifford thanked God after the passing of her dear friend Billy Graham?
Gifford wrote a tribute to Graham after his passing, and shared some of her favorite things about him.
"The thing that I adored most about him is that he remained the most humble and giant of a man you would ever, ever, ever want to meet," she gushed. "He had this incredible, loving presence of a person for the masses, but then when you were one-on-one with him, you were the only person in the room. Rarely do people have both of those gifts."
But Gifford knew Graham's time was coming to an end. She knew the last time she saw him would be just that, the last time.
"I’m going to always remember when I saw him at his 95th birthday party," she recalled. "I didn’t want to bother him. I was sitting with his granddaughter and I said, 'Do you think it will be all right if I went up to your grandfather and just told him how much I love him, and how much he means to me?' And she goes, ‘Oh he loves that.’ Everyone left and it was me and Billy. I went, 'Billy, it’s Kathie Lee.' He was looking like around because he doesn’t see very well, and all of a sudden I saw his eyes focus and he looked right into my eyes, and he goes, 'Oh Kathie Lee, I love you.'"
Even though her friend lost his life, Gifford thanked the Lord for taking him.
"I just immediately put my hands up and said 'Thank you, Lord! Thank you!' Because he has been lingering and languishing. Everybody who dies in Christ goes immediately into the arms of Christ for eternity. That is the hope of the Christian faith! That's why I could hold my dead husband in my arms and rejoice! Because I knew where he was! And it gives you the peace that passes all understanding."
Watching Kathie Lee Gifford's interview is sure to brighten your day, as she talks about her faith with such passion it's hard not to believe!