39: Kathie Lee Gifford

39: Kathie Lee Gifford

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Billy Graham & Me

• 39 •
KATHIE LEE GIFFORD

Co-host of NBC’s Today show and co-founder of the Association to Benefit Children’s Cassidy’s Place and Cody House child advocacy centers

I was a young teenager when I saw The Restless Ones, one of the first movies produced by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. It was about a young girl who was at a crossroads in life. She questioned which path to take: the world’s way or God’s way. Seeing that movie was truly a defining moment for me. I distinctly remember hearing an inner voice say, “Kathie, I love you, and I want to make something beautiful out of your life. Will you trust me?” I then made the most dramatic decision of my life. I went forward in that little ramshackle movie theater in Annapolis, Maryland and I asked Jesus to come into my heart. It is by far the most important, the most profound, and the best decision I have ever made. In a sense, I owe my physical life to my mom and dad, who brought me into this world, and my spiritual life to Billy Graham which will lead me into the world beyond.

It has been a great privilege to become friends with Billy. I thank him every time I see him, for his faithfulness, which, in turn, brought me to faith. Billy has impacted millions and millions of people’s lives. My whole family came to know the Lord through him and we are all deeply grateful.

A few years ago, a pianist friend of mine went to North Carolina to play a concert at the Montreat Conference Center. I asked him to please give my love to Billy and Ruth, who live nearby. When my friend returned home, I asked him, “Did you see Billy and Ruth?” He answered, “Kathie, I didn’t see Ruth, but I saw Billy.” Then I asked, “Well, how is Ruth doing?” With a look of concern, he explained that when he had asked about Ruth during his visit to Montreat, Billy had answered, “Oh, dear Ruth. She’s not doing that well and is having a really hard time, so we continue our romance with our eyes.” I was so deeply touched that soon after I wrote a song for Billy and Ruth’s sixtieth wedding anniversary, “Our Loving Eyes,” and later recorded it.

The last time I saw the two of them together was when they were both given the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor that the United States Congress can bestow upon a civilian. The service was in the Rotunda at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. It is a magnificent hall filled with busts of America’s founding fathers, including Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. During his acceptance speech, Billy said something like, “Look all around you. We’re in this auspicious hall with all of these incredible busts of amazing people. Do you know what they all have in common?” We all sat holding our breaths. “They’re all dead,” he continued. “In spite of their accomplishments and in spite of the place they hold in history, they are all dead. And do you know what everyone of us has in common?” Again, we held our breaths. “We’re all going to die,” he said. It was so profound. Then, after a moment of silence, Billy asked the questions, “Where are you going, and what have you left behind to impact the Kingdom of God?” That day, after all, for him was not about Billy Graham getting an award. It was about using every opportunity to turn people’s eyes to what mattered, their personal relationship with the living God.

That evening, while changing for the black tie event to be held in honor of Billy and Ruth, I watched the news on television in my hotel room. The reporter said, “Billy Graham received the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor today.” I then heard myself scream at the television, “So did Ruth! She received it, too!” Billy has said to me on several occasions that he could never, never have done what he did without Ruth keeping the home fires burning while raising their children at a great personal sacrifice. Sadly, she died not long after.

What will we have to cast at the feet of our Lord? It will be how we have loved others and served others. In Micah of the Old Testament, it says “To do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). As far as I’m concerned, Billy did exactly that. He did what was right. He loved the mercy and compassion of God. And he was a giant, a lion of a man, and yet he walked humbly with his God and he did it with a twinkle in his beautiful blue eyes. He brings out a lot of tears in me, tears of joy and tears of sadness, because we will never see the likes of him again.

Billy has said, “Every one of us has a calling from the Lord, but most of us don’t respond to the call.” Billy doesn’t count how many lives he has affected. Instead, he looks for the next opportunity to share the love of God with someone who is hurting or lost. He doesn’t look back. He looks forward. And now I’m happy for him that he’s closer and closer to living in Paradise. If anyone has earned a place there, it’s Billy. Ruth will be waiting for him, and they’ll continue their romance with their loving eyes. I love you, Billy, and I am “eternally” grateful.

OUR LOVING EYES

We looked at one another so many years ago

And found something special in our eyes

We vowed to each other that

There would never be another

For if love is truly real, then love never dies.

Now here we are

Weathered by the years

Strengthened by the trials

Tethered by the tears.

No need to speak of all we share

It comes as no surprise

That we’ll continue our sweet romance

With our eyes, our loving eyes.

No need to speak of all we feel

We know what’s true, we know what’s real

And until we whisper the last of our last goodbyes

We’ll continue our romance

With our loving eyes.

We’ve dreamed our dreams together,

We’ve walked the narrow road

We’ve shared every burden side by side

And as we turned each corner,

We turned to God above

Depending on His grace to sanctify our love.

Now we sit by the fire

Weathered by the years

Strengthened by the trials

Tendered by the tears.

No need to speak of all we share

It comes as no surprise

That we’ll continue our sweet romance

With our eyes, our loving eyes.

By Kathie Lee Gifford and Phil Sillas

Written for Ruth and Billy Graham in Celebration of their 60th Wedding Anniversary

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