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The world says goodbye to Billy Graham

Heads of state and prison inmates pay their respects

After a week of memorial events, Billy Graham will be put to rest at a private funeral service tomorrow.

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The service will be held at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. US President Donald Trump is expected to attend the event, where over 2000 invited guests will also be welcomed.

Graham’s casket was crafted by inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

Graham was an advisor to several US presidents including Dwight Eisenhower, George W. Bush, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon. All living US presidents have been invited to the private funeral.

The Washington Post reports that while former President Barack Obama is not planning to attend memorial services for Graham, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton paid their respects earlier this week, visiting the library where Graham’s body lay in repose.

Graham’s body was moved from North Carolina to Washington D.C. midweek, where he became the fourth person to “lie in honour” in the US Capitol building’s Rotunda in Washington D.C. The practice began in the 1990s and is similar to “lying in state”, where the casket of a government or military official is honoured by a brief placement in a government building, to allow the public to pay their respects.

The last private citizen to “lie in honour” was civil rights activist Rosa Parks, who died in 2005.

Graham’s casket was crafted by inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Inmate Richard “Grasshopper” Liggett constructed the casket for Graham and his late wife, Ruth, who died in 2007. According to Graham’s son Franklin, Liggett said of crafting the caskets: “Billy Graham is a simple man who preached a simple message. He must be buried in a simple casket.”

Many publications – this one included – printed the quote that encapsulates the message Graham spent his life spreading.

Meanwhile, on social media, a quote attributed to Billy Graham has gone viral: “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.”

Many publications – this one included – printed the quote that encapsulates the message Graham spent his life spreading. But Graham was not the first person to say it, and may not ever have spoken the words at all. As reported by Christianity Today, it’s actually adapted from 19th century evangelist Dwight L. Moody, appearing as the first line of his autobiography, released in 1900.

Some day you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that is all; out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal—a body that death cannot touch; that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.

Graham updated the quote for a new generation, and it appears in a 1999 photo biography titled Billy Graham: God’s Ambassador. Yet, as Christianity Today writer Caleb Lindgren opines, “It is fitting that the final words inside the back cover of the pictorial biography of the 20th century’s greatest evangelist echo those that mark the opening of the autobiography of the greatest evangelist of the previous century.”

Rest in peace, Billy Graham.

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