The Today show host's late husband died on Aug. 9 due to natural causes

By Aurelie Corinthios
Updated August 17, 2015 11:40 AM
Credit: Today Show

Kathie Lee Gifford returned to the Today show Monday for the first time since her husband Frank Gifford’s death on Aug. 9.

The Today host opened the show with an emotional tribute to her late husband.

“He would want you to know that he died in complete peace,” the Today show host said with tears in her eyes of Gifford, who died at 84 of natural causes. “He knew every sin he had committed was forgiven.”

Kathie Lee also expressed gratitude to her friends, fans and supporters for standing by her. She said: “I want to thank everybody for your love and your texts and your Tweets, and just the outpouring has been extraordinary.”

“It’s a heck of a way to find out how loved you are. Believe me, my family and I got strength and comfort for it.”

Gifford was a former New York Giants running back who went on to become a beloved sportscaster – but Kathie Lee said people should understand that he had humble roots.

“He would want you all to know that when he was a little boy they had nothing, but they had their faith,” said Kathie Lee of Gifford’s upbringing. “Every time they moved to a new town, his mother and father would take him and his siblings, they would go to church every week as a family, and that kept them as a family through the darkest, darkest times.”

She added: “He knew what it was like to be hungry. He knew what it was like to have no clothes on his back.”

“He strayed from his faith on occasion, but his faith never left him,” continued Kathie Lee, her voice breaking.

“I’m grateful that the Lord took him that way because the only thing Frank had ever been afraid of in his entire life was being a burden to those he loved.”

According to Kathie Lee, her husband died dressed in what he knew was her “favorite outfit” – a white shirt and tight black jeans.

Kathie Lee spoke of Frank’s gratitude, saying “he never had an entitled moment in his life.”

“Stop every fireman you see and thank them. He did it all the time,” said Kathie Lee. “He would stop crossing guards to roll down the window and say, ‘Thank you for keeping the children safe.’ He was so grateful. He knew what hard work was.”

RELATED: Kathie Lee Gifford Speaks of Heartbreak After NFL Legend Husband Frank Gifford Dies

The Giffords have two children together: Cody, 25, and Cassidy, 22. Gifford is also survived by three children from a previous marriage, Jeff, Kyle and Victoria.

“We will miss him so much,” said Kathie Lee. “I keep expecting him to go, ‘What time is church?’ ”

Kathie Lee also told a sweet anecdote about a trip the couple took to Eilat – Israel’s southernmost city, where Biblical scholars say David defeated the giant Goliath. It was there that Frank acquired a special stone, which became one of his most prized possessions. He showed it to anyone who visited him.

“He didn’t take them to see his Emmys or his rings or all of his trophies, he took them straight over to the stone,” said Kathie Lee. “Frank would want you to do this today: If you see a stone today, pick it up and ask yourself, ‘What is my stone? What is my gift that I can use to make this world a better place?’ ”

“If you ever leave a legacy for your children, let it be that you’ve taught them friendship with God and you’ve taught them to find their stone.”

Kathie Lee’s co-host Hoda Kotb then introduced a touching video of Heavenly Joy Jerkins, a 5-year-old girl, singing the popular gospel song “This Little Light of Mine” and dedicating it to Kathie Lee. To Kathie Lee’s surprise, the girl was then brought out and sang again for the co-hosts, bringing Kathie Lee to tears.

“I’ve held it together for a week!” exclaimed Kathie Lee as she wiped her eyes. “You’ve already discovered your stone,” she told the girl. “You’ve already found out what an incredible blessing you can be, what a difference you can make in people’s lives.”