Kathie Lee Gifford Says an Emotional Goodbye to 'Today' With Sweet Message from Regis Philbin

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Kathie Lee Gifford's Today sendoff is one to remember!

On Friday, the whole Today show family turned out to say their final farewell to the 65-year-old TV personality, who announced her planned departure back in December after 11 years on the morning show.

The special goodbye episode kicked off with a surprise performance by Flo Rida, who brought down the house in a sequin silver shirt as he sang a special Gifford-themed version of "My House."

Gifford greeted the crowd next, wearing a stunning red jumpsuit -- which matched Hoda Kotb's look -- and hugged her son, Cody Gifford, other friends and family, and Rita Wilson, all of whom were seated in the front row. 

"I feel great. The last two weeks since all of this crazy stuff began when all of this crazy stuff began, I had no expectations," Gifford said of her goodbye week, before revealing why she thinks the show has worked for so long.

"We have fun and we have a friendship and it's real and we have a great love and affection and respect for our audience," she said.

Kotb agreed, but added another key factor. "I think it's because of you," she said. "I really do. "

The surprises continued, with Gifford gifting their entire audience with a four-night cruise, before debuting a special video message from Regis Philbin, with whom she co-hosted Live With Regis and Kathie Lee from 1985 to 2000.

"Kathie Lee, you want to know the best part of my life, my TV life, the 15 years I spent with you, 1985 to 2000," Philbin gushed in the video. "We stayed friends throughout the entire game and it was a lot of fun."

"Where you are right now, I know you are going to be moving on to a great new career making movies, and since I've seen the first one, I know you're going to be a great success, I really mean it," he continued. "I want you to know how I will always remember the great times we had working together and how you are as a person, just great."

Gifford was clearly emotional following the video, and revealed that she had spoken to Philbin on the phone the day prior.

John Cena came out next -- which excited Gifford, who hilariously jumped into his arms and wrapped her legs around the WWE star -- to lead a fun trivia game, revealing that more than 5,300 glasses of wine were served throughout their tenure on the show.

"I am so, so very grateful for you," Cena told Gifford. "I tell you ladies all the time, you always make me feel so inclusive when you don't have to. You made my time here special. You have made my time here special. You're a special person. You have awesome energy and I love you."

The special show continued with Al Roker leading a game of "The Masked Guest" to reveal Dean Cain, Ryan Eggold and Barry Manilow. Gifford was delighted by all the guests, but none more so than Manilow who performed "Can't Smile Without You" for Gifford. The host herself ended up joining in on the fun and making it a duo with Manilow.

The final minutes of the show featured a video message from her two children, Cody and Cassidy, who gushed about their mom, late father, Frank Gifford, and Kotb. "I'm done now," a sobbing Gifford declared after the touching video message played.

After a hug from her son, Gifford and Kotb brought up the Today staff, toasted the camera with glasses of champagne and Gifford said her final goodbye with a quote from the Bible.

"Jeremiah 29 says, 'I know the plans I have you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and hope,'" she recited. "That's not just true for me you guys, that's true for everybody watching. Trust him, let him love you, like I love all of you."

While saying goodbye is never easy, on her penultimate episode of Today on Thursday, Gifford said she was "at peace" with her decision.

"When I am alone, like in the mornings, and I'm there with my puppies and my fire going and stuff, I have such a peace about it all," she said. "It could be an anxiety-ridden time, but it isn’t. I knew that it was the right decision, and the way everybody's dealt with it so graciously."

"Usually you have to die before people say such nice things about you," she quipped of the many tributes that have been lavished on her.

Despite Gifford's confidence in her decision, the emotions have been pouring in nonstop since she announced that she'll be saying goodbye. Much of the melancholy comes from saying goodbye to Kotb, her longtime co-host. Last month, ET's Nischelle Turner caught up with one of morning TV's best-known duos and they couldn't help but get teary-eyed when discussing Gifford's departure.

"She's the best friend you can have," Gifford tearfully said of Kotb. "I consider Hoda one of my dearest forever."

"The day that I met Kathie, that was big line of demarcation. I feel like everything changed and got better and got happier," Kotb agreed. "I felt more fulfilled and I felt like I took risks that I never thought I could take."

Though Gifford can certainly never be replaced, Jenna Bush Hager is set to step into her role as Kotb's co-host. Back in March, Kotb told ET that she's looking forward to finding her own "magic moments" with her new partner in crime. 

"Her absence will be felt throughout NBC in a way that is very profound, and she's left a mark that will be there forever. Some people come and go… but people will never forget Kathie Lee," Kotb said of Gifford before offering up some praise of Hager.

"Jenna is full of depth and wisdom and humor. For a person who spent her life in front of [the world], she's so strangely down to earth," Kotb said of the former first daughter. "I'm so excited, not for just me but for everybody, to learn more and more about her."

Even with Hager replacing Gifford, Kotb promised viewers that some things will stay the same.

"The wine has to stay! I mean it's a party, it will always be a party," Kotb assured. "I mean, things will change but the wine will stay."

Watch the video below for more on Gifford's goodbye to Today.

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