|At Pinebrook Bible Conference|
Upon the news of his death I began to reflect upon several things about Graham that touched my heart. The first was the trip that we made to Times Square in New York City to participate in one of his largest crusades. We traveled with relatives from their home in Connecticut and joined the throngs in the city. Even though we were many blocks from Graham, we could hear the stirring music, his powerful message and his invitation. It was a day that I will never forget.
Now I might have seen him in person one more time, but I can no longer confirm it. When I was in grade school I was visiting my grandparents in Bethlehem, PA. I went with them one evening to hear a young speaker in the Rose Gardens there. I think the speaker was Billy Graham, before he became well known. But my grandparents are now gone and I have no way to be sure that this was the case.
I was also touched over the years by listening to him on the radio and watching his many crusades around the world on television. I will never forget being touched as I would see the hundreds leave their seats during his invitation to receive Christ. The words of "Just As I Am", sung by his crusade choirs will never be forgotten.
A few years ago we made a trip to Wheaton, Illinois, where we had the opportunity to tour the museum devoted to his life and crusades. It was exciting to listen to his messages, view films of his crusades and look at the many materials that were displayed there. But the unexpected highlight came at the end of our visit when we entered a room with a glass balcony surrounded by clouds. It gave the impression that we were standing in the clouds. And then the music began to play - the Hallelujah Chorus. What an inspiring, unforgettable and unexpected experience that I shall never forget.
But another thing that has inspired me have been some of the books written by Graham. His last one, "Nearing Home" written when he was 93, is excellent. One of the many themes in the book is his difficult adjustment to the death of his dear wife, Ruth. In a section with the title "Living With Grief", he wrote the following.
"As I write this it has been four years since Ruth went home to be with the Lord. I feel her loss more keenly now. Not a day passes that I don't imagine her walking though my study door or us sitting together on our porch as we did so often, holding hands as the sun set over the mountaintops.
I have asked myself why this is the case; after all, shouldn't our grieving over the loss of a loved one fade as time passes? Yes it should - and in some ways it has for me. But in other ways it hasn't, nor do I expect it to. One reason, I think, is because my strongest memory at the time of her death was of her last days - her weakness, her pain, her yearning for Heaven. As much as I longed to have her stay with us, I also knew that for her, death could be a welcome release from the burdens of this life. But with the passing of time, memories of the happiness we shared over more than sixty-three years of marriage come to mind. I remember our last years together as my travels lessened and we had more time just to be together. Those were some of the best years of our lives- almost as if we were falling in love again. And with those memories has come a deeper sense of loss.
The other reason I still feel her death so deeply, I think, is because mingled with my grief is a new sense of expectancy - the certain knowledge that someday soon the Lord will come for me also, and before long Ruth and I will be reunited in Heaven. More than ever, I look forward to that day!"
And this week that reunion happened.
And then, in the final section of the book, "Our Final Home", he wrote "I was away so much, sometimes for months at a time. But no matter how short or long the trip, when I landed in Charlotte or Asheville, I knew I was nearing home. Home was a place of rest and peace, it also was a place of love and joy and security. In a far greater way, Heaven is our home - our final home - our ultimate place of complete peace and security and joy forever. ... When we belong to Christ, we know that when we die we finally will be at peace - for we will be home. ... Heaven is our hope, Heaven is our future, and Heaven is our home! I look forward to being home at last, and I pray you do also."
And now Billy Graham is finally home.
Listen to a tribute to Billy Graham here. TRIBUTE