With all the struggles that Kathie Lee Gifford has faced throughout the last few years, saying goodbye to her Today show role has been a lot harder than she ever imagined. In fact, the TV personality never even pictured herself committing to NBC for as long as she did.
“I thought I’d stay a year and here it is 11 years later,” the 65-year-old recently revealed to People. “And in those 11 years a lot of life has happened.” Kathie — who will be leaving our TV screens following her final broadcast on Friday, April 5 — has experienced a few devastating losses since she joined the major news network over a decade ago.
In August 2015, the blonde beauty’s husband of 29 years, former NFL player and broadcaster Frank Gifford, sadly passed away just a week shy of his 85th birthday. Almost exactly two years after that, her mother, Joan Cuttell, also died in her sleep at the age of 87. “I experienced huge changes,” the Live With Regis and Kathie Lee alum admitted.
On top of having to conform to a life of “crippling loneliness” without her mother and husband, Kathie also had to adjust to her children, Cody, 29, and Cassidy 26, living across the country in Los Angeles. “I’ve become a widow, an orphan and an empty-nester all at once,” she stated. “There’s nothing really keeping me in this part of the country anymore except for my job.”
With everything that life has been throwing her way, Kathie realized that she had to make a change. “The work that I want to do isn’t here anymore,” said the Emmy-winning journalist, whose film Love Me to Death comes out this month. “I am an artist, I’m an actress, I’m a writer, I’m a songwriter, a director now. That’s the stuff that feeds my soul and I know that I’m running out of time to do those things.”
Filling Kathie’s role is Jenna Bush Hager, who is ready to step in as cohost alongside Hoda Kotb on Monday, April 8. As for her imminent farewell? Kathie Lee said it’s “bittersweet,” but she “fell in love with the people and I intend to take them with me wherever I go.”
We’re going to miss you so much, Kathie!