Recently the world lost a true role model, the Reverend Billy Graham. He was a fiery evangelist and a gentle human being.
When I was growing up our small, black and white television was always dedicated to the Billy Graham Crusade when one was on. My mom admired him, and his altar call at the end of the broadcast never failed to bring her to tears as people surged forward to stand before God. From the opening hymn sung by George Beverly Shea to the closing when they played “Just as I Am”, my Mom was glued to the set.
Personally, I always like to hear Billy Graham speak. Not necessarily the fire and brimstone message, but the flow of his accent and the rise and fall of his hypnotic voice. As a little girl I always thought God must look like George Beverly Shea and sound like Billy Graham. Much later when Hollywood tried to convince me George Burns was God, I rejected the idea completely. Even when they paired Burns with John Denver (my favorite) in one of the movies, I still couldn’t accept the idea that my personal deity was an aged, cigar chomping burlesque star. It just never worked for me.
Growing up I went to church with Mom and Dad, but when I married my expanding brood went through times when we attended church, and times when we did not. My mother was the dispenser of all things religious, taking my children to church and encouraging them to keep God at the center of their lives. I know it made a difference in who they turned out to be…. a very good difference. As her grandchildren grew my mom continued to watch Billy Graham crusades on television. Late in her life she even found a channel that played his sermons almost every day; he was an anchor in her religious life.
Time passed so quickly; before we knew it, mom and dad had reached the age when going out to church became more difficult. Television became more important as mom faithfully watched evangelists like Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Baker, Ernest Ainsley and others. While most of those preachers eventually proved to be wolves in sheep’s (designer) clothing, Billy Graham continued to command their admiration because of the simple and honest life he lived. Over the years I must have heard my mom and my dad say, “I’d really like to meet him”, or “I’d like to shake his hand”, often “I’d like to pray with him” when they spoke about Billy Graham. He was someone they felt they could relate to because they all spoke to the same God every single day.
The outpouring of feelings when Billy Graham passed away was heartwarming. His family conducted his services with the dignity and simplicity he had always displayed in life. I watched the services, wondering how many ministers have the President of the United States show up at their funeral? What a tribute to an amazing life. His prayers for the nation, like my mother’s prayers for me, will be greatly missed.
Billy Graham was once quoted as saying, “When you hear I am dead don’t believe it. I will be more alive than I have ever been”. I have only one thought to add to that. I rest easy in the knowledge that, after all these years, my parents have finally gotten to meet Billy Graham.
Life is Good