The Rev. Billy Graham’s funeral served as his final crusade. President Donald Trump and Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and his predecessor Pat McCrory were among the dignitaries in attendance, but the service did not include comments from them or other notables in the crowd.
Instead Graham’s funeral, which had been planned down to the smallest detail for years (it was to be precisely 82 minutes long, Charlotte station WSOC noted) included touching tributes from the people who knew the great evangelist best.
“The Billy Graham that people saw in the big stadiums was the same Billy Graham we saw at home,” his son the Rev. Franklin Graham said. He revealed that his father, a globally renowned orator, said little during his final year.
“I think his mind was on heaven,” he said. “Daddy, I won’t see you on this earth again, but I’ll see you again. Maybe soon. But not yet. To God be the glory.”
The Rev. Gerald Durley, pastor emeritus at Atlanta’s Providence Missionary Baptist Church and one of co-chairs of Graham’s 1994 Atlanta Crusade, arrived hours early for the service and said he’d met visitors from Japan, India and Australia.
“The love I’m seeing shows me we really have to get back to the single message of love in this country,” Durley said. “There are people here from all over the world.”
The Rev. Henry Holley of Marietta, who worked with Graham for decades helping to organize crusades, also attended. After the service he was among the many who lined up for a moment with Graham’s children including Anne Graham Lotz. A prolific author and evangelist, Lotz said during the service that her father would often ask her to read the Bible to him.
“He loved to hear God’s word,” she said. “I would always end by saying, ‘Daddy I love you.'”
Daughter Ruth Graham shared a powerful story. After her divorce, she drove to her parents’ home and when she arrived, her father was standing in the driveway, waiting to welcome her with open arms.
“My father was not God, but he showed me what God is like that day,” she said.
Graham’s only surviving sister, Jean Ford, spoke early in the service.
“On Feb. 21 Heaven came down and took my brother from me,” she said. “One day Heaven will come down for me. I know what he would want me to say: Heaven is coming again, and would like to take you, also.”