Column: Peace, remembrance at Billy Graham's funeral
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A serenity settled over this former dairy farm, with the sun settling in the western twilight and the shadows growing long.
He was just a man, and mortal like all of us.
“My father was not God,” Ruth Graham would say Friday when an estimated 2,500 came to remember and celebrate the life of the Rev. Billy Graham, the renowned evangelist who was steadfast in his faith in delivering the Christian gospel to more that 215 million believers worldwide over seven decades.
Just, if you will, a preacher.
There’s life everlasting, the Bible says, if you believe in the promise of Jesus Christ, and Billy Graham spent a lifetime reminding us of that promise that he believed with all of his heart.
“Someday you will read or hear,” he once would say, “that Billy Graham is dead.”
And so we did.
Billy Graham died Feb. 21 at his mountain home in Montreat.
He was 99.
“Last week, he embarked on the journey he has been looking forward to all his life,” the Rev. Franklin Graham III, 65, would tell those who gathered under a 28,000-square-foot tent, akin to the one from a 1949 revival in Los Angeles that thrust Billy Graham to international evangelical fame. “My father’s greatest longing has been granted. He’s with God.”
Described as “the last crusade,” this was a service much like the evangelist and the late Cliff Barrows, music director for Billy Graham Crusades, had planned some 10 years ago.
“Just As I Am” resonated throughout, just as the old hymn had at so many of Graham’s crusades when the evangelist implored the audience to confess and ask for repentance of their sins.
Franklin Graham remembered his father behind pulpits, the Holy Bible in the palm of his hand.
“He preached the Gospel with urgency,” Graham would say. “And that one day we all would have to stand before God and give an accounting. That we’d be judged by God. My father would want me to tell you today that Jesus Christ shed his blood for our sins. And if today you’re not right with God, there’s no better place to begin than at Billy Graham’s funeral.”
And something else Franklin Graham, like his father, wanted all to know.
“Jesus is not dead,” he would say. “He is alive and here today.”
Hallelujah, you could feel Billy Graham urging. Hallelujah.
They carried Billy Graham’s body down the hill behind the library to be buried alongside his beloved wife at the foot of a cross-shaped walking path.
Bagpipes played in the blustery winds as the pine coffin disappeared from our sight.
“Some day you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead,” the evangelist for generations, and what seems forever, once would say.
They say he died in his sleep at his mountain home.
“Don’t you believe a word of it,” Billy Graham would want you to know. “I shall be more alive then than I am now. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
Imagine, if only you can, the moment when Billy Graham opened his blinding eyes … and saw the face of God.
Bill Kirby Jr. for the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer.