Living life,  preparing for death

Carol Wright

By A Contributor

I first met Billy Graham when I was very young. We didn’t actually meet face-to-face, but he spoke to me along with millions of other

people through the magic of his televised crusade special.

At that time and much later in adulthood, I was never too crazy about religious leaders. But Billy Graham was an exception.

If there is one American Christian evangelist whom I trust and respect above all others, it is Graham.

Years have gone by, and I, like so many people, find myself almost constantly searching for solace, knowing that my troubles and setbacks

serve a purpose of some kind. I have my good and bad moments like everybody, but I have lots of questions and doubts that keep me up at night.

After reading Graham’s most recent book, “Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well,” I can at least raise my hopes and consciousness a bit higher, knowing somehow in the end everything will turn out okay and will most likely be for the best.

Through his own worship and faith, total life experiences (thus far—and his journey is an incredible one—he will celebrate his 94th birthday this year on Nov. 7), joys and humor, ill health and recovery, acceptance of a greater life beyond and motivation in encouraging people to welcome God/Jesus into their lives, and to not be afraid to talk about dying and death, Graham seeks to help us understand ourselves.

He teaches us to be patient. He tells us to not rush into retirement. There is so much each person can do before reaching their final chapter.

“Don’t resent growing old,” he writes. “Many are denied the privilege.”

Work was never meant to become the center of our lives. Older people are often pressured into retirement in order to give employment opportunities to the young.”

Everything…well…most everything Graham espouses makes sense. His book is written for people at every stage of their life. He advises

people to look forward to new discoveries, new hobbies or interests. He gives examples of older people who, when younger, didn’t focus or didn’t

think they were a success story. It turns out that people in their 70s, even 80s and 90s, have higher expectations and are more happy now that they survived the hard part, the difficult lessons of youth. And they have gained so much knowledge through the years. Their knowledge, patience, caring for family and friends, and love of God help prepare them for their final chapters.

Graham writes that in his own youth he desired to work hard and become a major league baseball player. He dedicated himself to the sport

of baseball. Later he realized that baseball, which he still loves today, just wasn’t his calling.

Rev. William Franklin Graham, Jr., born Nov. 7, 1918, was raised on a dairy farm in Charlotte, N.C. In 1943, he married Ruth McCue Bell, the daughter of a Christian missionary surgeon. She died, and in his book Graham writes a lot about the love of his life. Anyone who has a heart could, will, shed a tear —Graham misses her so much and anticipates being reunited with her.

Together, Graham and Ruth had three daughters and two sons, including Franklin who is in charge of the Billy Graham Evangelistic

Association (BGEA), which Graham, Sr., originally founded in Minneapolis, Minn., and later moved its location to Charlotte.

The couple also has numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

One has to admire Graham. He is charismatic, loyal, an influential and powerful speaker, and devoted to his religion

It is remarkable how he writes that “I am glad to have aches and pains.”

Graham also says he is glad that he can talk about them and that someone is kind enough to listen patiently.

For a man who has endured pain and has been in and out of hospitals, Graham still appreciates being active, but acknowledges that he can’t do some of the things that he used to do. He wishes that he could master certain tasks, but accepts the fact that the tasks just do not come that easily to him anymore.

It is interesting to note: the BGEA reports that “nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries have been reached through his ministry.” Graham has been the adviser to numerous presidents.

In “Nearing Home…,” he writes sadly and eloquently of his visits with President Ronald Reagan, the early years and after Reagan suffered from Alzheimer’s prior to his death.

Graham has earned a multitude of awards. He does not dwell on them.

Gallup Polls list him routinely as the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World.”

Author of more than 30 books, including “Storm Warnings” (2010); “Just As I Am (Autobiography),” (1997); “Hope For the Troubled Heart” (1991); and “The Jesus Generation” (1971), Graham states that “retirement is a gift from God.”

And he puts all his faith and trust in the hands of Jesus Christ: “He will not forsake me during this last stretch as I am nearing home,” Graham writes. “If that doesn’t give me a sense of hope, nothing else will.”

Carol Winfield is a freelance writer and resides in Winfield.

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