At precisely noon on March 2, some 2,000 invited guests stood to their feet in a massive white tent while the casket of Billy Graham was set in place. On either side of the casket was an arrangement of lilies and long-stemmed white roses. Mr. Graham’s body would soon be laid to rest, next to his beloved Ruth—and, yet, there was little sign of sadness.
“My father’s greatest longing has been granted,” said Franklin Graham. “If he could speak to you today, he would ask you: ‘Will you be making the journey to Heaven?’”
Mr. Graham’s sister, Jean, and each of his children, came to the podium to pay tribute to the man they had shared with the world. Gigi Graham used her mother’s words from a poem to describe her father.
“I do not need a handsome man,” Ruth Bell Graham had written at age 13. “But, O God, let him be like You. And let his whole life, dear God, show a singleness of goal.”
In the audience sat Mr. Graham’s grandchildren, extended family and friends, faith and political leaders, and the president and vice president of the United States. All eyes were cast toward the front of the tent.
“I pledge to you, Daddy, that in view of His appearing and in front of all of these witnesses, I will preach the Word,” Anne Graham Lotz declared. “I will do the work of an evangelist. … I love you, Daddy.”
Ned Graham described his father as being faithful, available and teachable. Not everyone could see the casket, where the family directed their personal comments. But no one could escape the cross. A cross-shaped wreath sat to the left of the casket. A cross was engraved on the casket. And directly in front of the tent was the larger-than-life, cross-shaped entry of the Billy Graham Library.
And the entire 82-minute service echoed Mr. Graham’s lifelong invitation to come to the cross.
“My father is not God,” said Ruth Graham. “But he showed me what God was like. When we come to God with our sin, our brokenness, our failure, our pain, and our hurt, God says, ‘Welcome home.’ And that invitation is open for you.”