Perhaps you have heard that the Rev. Billy Graham is struggling with pneumonia and has been hospitalized. The man who’s faith and stories have impacted the lives of millions of people, around the globe, is facing a difficult road. And while he is surrounded by people who love and respect him, for a few years now, he’s been walking this road without his precious wife, Ruth Bell Graham.
When I think of Rev. Graham I must also think of Ruth. They go together in my memory and thoughts. Ruth penned a beautiful book called, SITTING BY MY LAUGHING FIRE which was a snapshot, in poetry, of her life of home and faith.
So often when a public figure faces terminal or dire illness, the focus goes to that individual. It’s natural. I’ve been the one, quite ill, and I’ve been the caretaker of one very ill. I sat with my own papa several times through the icy grip of pneumonia. In my own experience I’ve yet to define which is the more difficult role.
Ruth’s life ended almost four years ago. In that, she is not facing this long walk that Rev. Graham is now on. Caring for one so very ill is a burden and a joy. It is heartbreaking and rewarding. In it a person discovers the full spectrum of human experience from the less stellar but truly human feelings of bitterness and resentment to the compassionate understanding and acceptance of the circumstances -just as they are. Ruth Bell Graham understood and forgave herself the one side of the spectrum and always aspired to the other side: grace, calm acceptance and faith in all things.
My wishes for Billy Graham today are that he is as pain free as he can be, that he is comfortable, that he rests sweetly in the palm of the hands of the angels that surely are ministering to him and take his core strength from his standing with his Creator. And I have one more wish for him. That some time in the day, while he is resting but somewhat awake, the brush of a hand on top of his reminds him of his precious, equal partner, Ruth. And in that, may he sense that she is with him, as always, sitting by her laughing fire.
“Is the tree that’s pruned
preoccupied with pain?
–standing with its wound
in the wind and rain;
shrouded in cool mist,
kissed by the dew,
chosen for a nest
by a bird or two;
enveloped by fragrance
of rainwahsed air,
bloodroots and violets
clustered round it there…”
from SITTING BY MY LAUGHING FIRE
and some of Ruth’s thoughts on prayer
“Men of God, whose prayers are recorded for us in the Bible, never read a book on prayer, never went to a seminar on prayer, never heard a sermon on prayer. They just prayed.”
“Start praying where you are, as you are, about whatever concerns you, about whatever is lying most heavily on your heart, about whatever is irritating or frustrating you at present.”
“Be pointed. Be persistent. Be patient. But pray.”
If you would like to learn more about the life of Rev. Billy Graham, this is an excellent resource: