Inside Kathie Lee Gifford's heartbreaking final meeting with Regis Philbin

On July 24, 2020, television legend Regis Philbin died of natural causes at 88 years old, his family told People in a statement. "His family and friends are forever grateful for the time we got to spend with him — for his warmth, his legendary sense of humor, and his singular ability to make every day into something worth talking about," the Philbin family said. "We thank his fans and admirers for their incredible support over his 60-year career."

From 1985 to 2000, Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford captured audiences every morning on their show, Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee. Not only did viewers enjoy their hilarious banter, but the two formed a strong bond and incredible friendship, which lasted for 35 years.

Of course, Gifford couldn't help but honor the late television personality on social media. "There are no words to fully express the love I have for my precious friend, Regis," she captioned a photo of herself with Philbin via Instagram in July 2020. "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 friendship we shared up to this very day."

"There has never been anyone like him. And there never will be," the Broadway alum added. Gifford also revealed what her last meeting with Philbin was like — keep reading to find out all the details.

Kathie Lee Gifford saw Regis Philbin 'two weeks' before his death

Kathie Lee Gifford revealed that she saw her longtime friend Regis Philbin just a few weeks before he passed away, making it their last and final get-together. "I was up from Tennessee, where I live most of the time, and of course the first call I always make is to Regis and [his wife] Joy," she told Hoda Kotb on the Today show in July 2020. "They are still here [in Connecticut], so I said, 'Can we get together? Can we have some lunch?' They came over about two weeks ago."

However, Gifford noted that Philbin was not looking so good during their gathering. "I saw Reg get out of the car with Joy, and I sensed much more fragility than I had seen him since the last time in January in Los Angeles," she recalled. Nonetheless, Gifford, Philbin, and Joy enjoyed some food and "sat right here on [her] screened porch," where "[they] laughed [themselves] sick."

"We always just picked up right where we left off," Gifford gushed. "You know, I was with him 15 years, but it's been 20 years since I left the show and we became dear friends through the years since then, just always, always, getting together every chance we could and just picked up, as I said, right where we left off."

Kathie Lee Gifford wasn't sure she would see Regis Philbin again

After Kathie Lee Gifford hung out with her former colleague and pal Regis Philbin, she wasn't sure if she would ever see him again due to his declining health. "We just had the best time," Gifford gushed on the Today show in July 2020 about her time with Philbin. "After [Joy and Regis] left, I thought to myself, 'Lord, is that the last time I am going to see my friend?' Because he was failing, I could tell."

Before Gifford heard that Philbin had passed, she knew something wasn't right and flew to the east coast. "I don't know, something told me the other day when I was in Tennessee, 'Get on a plane and go home. Get on a plane.' I don't know, but I have learned to listen to that voice," Gifford explained. "I got on the plane, came home, and immediately heard the news about Regis. I called Joy immediately..."

Gifford paid a visit to Joy one day after Philbin had passed. "They were in their living room going through pictures — there were thousands of pictures and we reminisced for a little while," she noted. "I didn't want to intrude on their private family time because I remember what that was like because it's been five years almost since [her late husband] Frank passed. You love your friends reaching out but you also desperately need that private time as a family."

Kathie Lee Gifford will miss laughing with Regis Philbin

One thing that Kathie Lee Gifford will always cherish about her last time with Regis Philbin? She got the chance to hear his contagious laugh. In fact, Joy Philbin told Gifford she hadn't heard her husband laugh like that in "a long, long time," as the talk show host recalled on Today. "I think it was like [Gifford's late husband] Frank, he's just ready, you know," Gifford added. "... And [Joy] said, 'The day that we came to have lunch with you was the last time I heard him laugh.'"

Ultimately, Gifford will hold her friendship with Philbin close to her heart for the rest of her life. "That will forever be a precious gift the Lord gave me, that I got to laugh with him — one of my best friends in all of my lifetime," she gushed.

Of course, the feelings were mutual. This was evident when Philbin shared a video message honoring Gifford's departure from Today in 2019, gushing, "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. We stayed friends throughout the entire game and it was a lot of fun."

Talk about a heartwarming friendship.