The famous evangelist and Gospel preacher Billy Graham has passed from this world, dying last week at his home in Montreat, North Carolina at the age of 99. His everlasting impact and effect on our world will be remembered most closely by his family, but also by many millions everywhere who were subjected to his sermons and influence. Not least among these are some of the famous American leaders he advised.
But there were many, many more. Billy Graham reached 185 countries in his life and preached to 215 million people. Of these, not many were closer to him than his daughter – and it was his daughter that was by his side at the very end to hear his last words.
Ann Graham Lotz spoke publicly in the hard time that follows a parent’s passing to the news station WRAL. She shared some of her feelings about the event, the passing of her father, but also touched on her father’s work and legacy, and the work that still needs to be done following his passing.
“I know Daddy’s in heaven. I have every confidence I’m going to see him again,” she said. “But inside, I feel empty, and it’s not easy.”
That emptiness will be familiar to almost everyone who has lost a loved one. It can be very difficult to get over that, but it can also be eased and filled by a public outpouring that shows there are many who are sharing in your grief. For Billy Graham, this public outpouring was astonishing. Thousands of people lined the route between Asheville and Charlotte as Graham’s body was transported in anticipation of his funeral this coming Sunday.
This confusing time could benefit from someone as calm and collected as Billy Graham. A man who refused to be ruffled, he was as comfortable was a group of farmers as he was with the president of the United States. As a preacher he was engaging to the last. Ann expressed concern that there was now a gap in American life – she is worried that the passing of her father leaves the country without a strong Christian compass.
“We’re so divided. There’s so much anger, so much polarization, and Jesus is the answer,” she said. “If you look at my Daddy’s life, he cuts across all those divides, whether it’s a racial divide, a political divide, a social divide. People all across the spectrum love and honor Billy Graham. Why? Because of his message and because he presented Jesus, and Jesus is the one who unifies us and brings us together.”
“It was so moving, I was in tears, but I found myself comforted just by the love of people in this state,” Ann said. “North Carolina is our home and Daddy’s home, and it just felt like being surrounded by family.” A daughter often knows exactly what her father needs. At the very end, Graham needed to be with his family. That’s why Ann brought her family with her to visit Graham. Ann’s daughter, and Graham’s granddaughter, turned to Graham as they were leaving.
“I love you,” the 11-year-old girl said.
Billy Graham blinked and looked back at her, “I love you too,” he said.