Kathie Lee Gifford opened her show Wednesday with an emotional tribute to her mom, Joan Epstein, who passed away in her sleep on Tuesday.
“She’s already had one day in heaven,” Kathie Lee said, noting that her mom was now reunited with Kathie Lee’s father, Aaron Epstein. “Now they’re joined, and my mom has been missing him so much for the last almost 13 years.”
Joan, who was 87, was a beloved extended member of the TODAY family and a frequent visitor to Kathie Lee and Hoda's show.
“Your mom was one of the bright lights I think I had ever met,” Hoda said, recalling how the first time Joan was introduced to everyone, “We all fell madly in love.”
In part, it was because of the way Joan followed her daughter around the studio and revealed funny insights about her Kathie Lee's life.
“We understood you a thousands times more,” Hoda said. As part of the tribute, Hoda and Kathie Lee aired a touching look of some of Joannie's sweetest moments on TODAY.
Kathie Lee, who spoke to her mother on the phone every morning before she went on air, shared how her mom recently told her about getting taken to be weighed at the home where she lived.
When Kathie Lee asked about her weight, Joan answered, “Do you like being asked how much you weigh?”
Kathie Lee said her mom wasn’t afraid of dying because she had "the strongest faith of anyone I’ve ever known.”
Although Joan was orphaned as a child and lost many other loved ones at a young age, the losses never affected her attitude.
“Do you know what she always remembered? What she had. What she still had,” she said. “And she had the Lord in a deep, deep way.”