Legacies, Influences, & Billy Graham

Another post from the drafts folder. I wrote this last year on the day Billy Graham died, February 21, 2018.

One of the very first things I read, when I tuned into social media that morning, was the news of Billy Graham’s passing. Despite never having met him or even attending one of his events, he holds such a personal and intimate place in my identity and faith journey. I was going to write a simple Facebook post on my personal wall in memorial but I decided to expand it and resurrect ye olde blog instead.

“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”  – Billy Graham

I have reached a point in my life where I have enough self-awareness to realize at least a few of the ways that other people have played a role in making me who I am today. Something integral to my personal identity is a heritage of strong women of faith. Paul’s letter to Timothy comes to mind:

“…as I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and that I am confident lives also in you.” – 2 Timothy 1:5

And if I were to write that same verse for myself, it would start with the first person in that chain that I knew – my Great Grandmother. One of the blessings of being the oldest child of the oldest child of her oldest child is that I had a relationship with her for all of my childhood. She lived on this side of Glory until I was 19. And I had the advantage of viewing her through a rosy, great-granddaughter lens. I wasn’t raised by her or even by someone she raised. (I think the people we live and do life with get the chance to see both the best and worst sides of us.) So I’m sure she wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t have to deal with her imperfections. Instead, I was able to be inspired by her strengths and hold on to the legacy of her example. And what I remember of her is her faith. She didn’t have a theology degree or fancy training but she had a Bible and a relationship with Jesus that sustained her through the ups and downs of life.

Anyway, how does all of this relate to Billy Graham? My Great Grandma lived her whole life in the hills of North Carolina and always had great respect and admiration for Reverend Graham. I think in a lot of ways they were cut from the same cloth as it were. So for me, my thoughts and feelings about him are inextricably linked with my Great Grandma. A pillar in her faith journey is a pillar in my faith journey.

I can hope that one day it would be true to be said of me:

I recall her sincere faith that first lived in her great-grandmother Helen and in her grandmother Joy and in her mother Belinda and that I am confident also lived in her.

My Great Grandmother (far left) with Billy Graham at Montreat


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