WAYNESBORO — Wednesday was a day of reflection for Ruth Graham (far right in photo) as she thought about the death of her father, the world’s most famous evangelist, Rev. Billy Graham.
Ruth Graham, a Waynesboro resident since 2000 and Shenandoah Valley resident since 1985, spent the day answering the phone and remembering the full life of her 99-year-old father.
“The phone has blown up. It’s a happy day. I know where daddy is. I am happy he is where he needs to be and wanted to be,” she said.
She knew her father’s death on Wednesday was coming. He had suffered with Parkinson’s Disease and other chronic ailments for years, and was looked after at his Montreat, N.C. home “by wonderful caregivers.” But Ruth Graham and her four siblings have never known a world without their father.
“God must have something for him,” she said. Ruth Graham has her own ministry and travels the world. She remembers a father who embraced his place as a global spiritual leader and preached in nearly 200 countries.
In 1957, he held 16 consecutive weeks of crusades in New York City. He preached six days a week at Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium and in Times Square. He didn’t seek fame, but handled his work with grace.
“He felt a huge responsibility to honor the lord,” Ruth Graham said. “He prayed every day saying ‘Lord don’t let me fail you.’ ”
She said her father wanted to help other evangelists. “He preached to them, talked to them and wanted to encourage them. He told them, ‘You will replace me.’ He had no desire to be irreplaceable.”
Money was not a priority either. “I’m surprised he has anything left,” she said. “He did not want to die a wealthy man. Bless his heart, he made a lot of money with books but he gave it away.”
What Ruth Graham will remember is a man she describes as “a quintessential Southern gentleman.” She said her father had a grace, a kindness and a humility.
He would always stand up for people when greeting them until he could no longer stand because of his illnesses. He would stop in restaurants and talk to people, often praying with them.
“He was a gentle loving man,” she said. Ruth Graham recalls she and her siblings making fun of the Devil and being told not to by her father. “He wouldn’t let us criticize people,” she said.
Billy Graham prayed with America’s presidents dating back to Dwight Eisenhower. His favorite was Texan Lyndon Johnson, she said. “[Johnson] was a farm boy from Texas. They would just laugh it up,” she recalled.
Ruth Graham said it was her father “who led me to Jesus.” At age 50, she returned to college graduating from Mary Baldwin University’s adult degree program in 2000. Her father attended the ceremony.
As the leader of Ruth Graham Ministries she wants to help people who suffer while sitting in church but don’t open up about their disappointments and addictions.
“People are afraid to talk about what is going on in their lives,” she said. She said people refuse to open up about addictions to pornography or children in trouble. She wants to encourage those people and listen. Ruth Graham has written two books, “In Every Pew Sits a Broken Heart” and “Step into the Bible.” She is working on another book.
Her father’s funeral in Charlotte March 2 will be a celebration of life fully lived and realized. And Ruth Graham believes the legacy of Billy Graham will live on for generations. “We will celebrate and rejoice,” she said.
“There are a lot of Grahams,’ she said. There are five siblings, 19 grandchildren and more than 40 great grandchildren. Ruth Graham is the mother of 3 children and grandmother of 9.
Among Ruth Graham’s siblings is evangelist Franklin Graham, known for his work with the international relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse.
She will always remember a man who devoutly followed his faith. “He believed in the Bible from cover to cover,” she said.
Article originally appeared in the News Virginian on February 22, 2018. Article by Bob Stuart.