Kathie Lee Gifford is reflecting on feeling her late husband Frank Gifford's presence at their children’s weddings.
This summer, both of Kathie Lee’s children, daughter Cassidy, 27, and son Cody, 30, decided to proceed with small COVID-era weddings. “Some people are postponing until they can have the big celebration, but my kids just wanted to be married,” she tells PEOPLE for this week’s issue.
The former Today show host, who recently released a new memoir, It’s Never Too Late, adds that she could feel Frank “smiling” during the ceremonies.
“At both weddings, we felt Frank just smiling,” she says of the former NFL player, who died in 2015 at the age of 84. “He had an aerial view, I think.”
Cassidy, an actress, married software project manager Ben Wierda in an intimate backyard wedding at his family’s home in Michigan in June.
"Ben and Cassidy got married in an intimate setting in his backyard in Michigan," the bride's manager told PEOPLE in a statement at the time. "They’re planning on having a big celebration when it’s safe to do so in the future."
Kathie Lee, 67, also shared a photo at the time expressing her excitement and anticipation over watching her daughter walk down the aisle. "When the mother of the bride can’t contain her joy!!!" she captioned a photo of herself riding a tractor.
Three months later, Cody, a producer, married Erika Brown, an actress. Kathie Lee shared the exciting news with a sweet Instagram photo of the newlyweds in September. "God gave us a glorious day to celebrate this glorious couple. So grateful.🙏🏻," she wrote.
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Cody's ceremony took place at the Greenwich home where he and his sister grew up, “right where we’d spread Frank’s ashes,” Kathie Lee tells PEOPLE.
She went on to say she was “grateful” that Frank had met both Wierda and Brown prior to his death. “Frank knew Ben, Cassidy's husband, since he was 14 years old — he's 30 now,” Kathie Lee says. “And Frank adored Erika, he met her at my 60th birthday. He loved her smile and loved her laugh.”
“He was there for that part of the journey, which was lovely,” she adds.
The mother of two also opened up about her husband's sudden death in 2015. In the months prior, “He had been dealing with old age stuff like losing your car keys, putting them in the microwave,” she recalls.
The family suspected he might have CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, from the repeated trauma of blows to the head during his football career. Kathie Lee says Cody recommended they donate Frank’s brain to science, since CTE can be diagnosed only through autopsy.
“He said, ‘Daddy would want us to do what Jesus wants us to do, and he would want people to be helped,’” she remembers. Frank’s brain went to Boston University, where researchers confirmed the diagnosis.
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