Billy and Ruth Graham: 'Til death do us part'
“Til death do us part.”
The familiar phrase uttered in many wedding ceremonies may not mean what it used to, but for some couples it is still a verbal commitment to a lasting bond of wedded love.
Columnist Bryan Painter recently wrote about such couples and I have one on my mind in particular.
I was talking to one of my best friends this morning and we were discussing Ruth Bell Graham’s death Thursday evening.
My friend and I, Liz Thomas, attend the same church and went together to the Rev. Billy Graham’s Oklahoma City Mission in June 2003 at the Ford Center.
Of course I sat in an area reserved for members of the media and she sat with several other members of church. We both saw and heard similar things at the event and we both came away with different viewpoints too.
And yet this morning our phone conversation revolved around a comment that Billy Graham made during the mission’s first evening session.
As I recall a hush came over the crowd as he described being bedridden at the Mayo Clinic where he had gone for some testing. At that time, he said, doctors were trying to find out exactly what ailed the renowned evangelist.
Here is an excerpt from my story that ran the next day, June 13, 2003:
“I spoke to the Lord and the Lord spoke to me,” Graham said as he stood at a podium on the Ford Center stage.
“All my sins came back to me, dating from childhood,” he said in a sermon that lasted about 40 minutes.
Graham said he realized Jesus had died for the sins that arose to confront him.
“I knew from that moment on that I made my peace with God when I thought I was on my death bed — and I still have it.”
This morning, both Liz and I remarked on his comments, remembering something else he said as he spoke to the silent crowd. I think that his talk of death, him being 80-something, had quickly captured the audience’s attention.
Graham said he and his beloved wife had talked about what a joy it would be to “go together” to meet the Lord they had both spent a lifetime telling others about.
Obviously that did not happen, but his sentiment made an impression upon us — so much so that all these years later it stuck out as a beautiful tribute to a love that stood the test of time.
I know that others remember the preacher’s loving remarks. It was an unforgettable moment in an unforgettable place in the city’s history. As we listened to the evangelist, many of us wondered if it was the last time he would preach in our city.
It is wonderful to recall that bygone time and Graham’s inspirational words. They certainly struck home to many people, particularly married lovebirds in the room — and those who hoped one day to experience such marital joy.
Her beloved husband’s thoughtful words and undoubtedly, his memories of his wife, are fitting testimonies of the life of Ruth Bell Graham.
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