You can tell a lot about a person by their family.
At the memorial service for Ruth Bell Graham in 2007, a deep respect, honor, and warmth for their mother was conveyed by all five of her children. She had lived her life as an example to them and they thanked her for it, having left a legacy of grace and gumption when it came to life and living for God.
“Jesus was her center. We knew that Jesus was the reason she was the way she was, but she didn’t preach it. She just simply lived it,” shared daughter, Ruth.
Married to famed evangelist Billy Graham for 63 years, her family remembers her as a cornerstone to their own personal walks with Jesus. They consider their lives a testament to the parents who taught the love of Christ both at home and abroad.
Ruth Bell was born in China to medical missionary parents, growing up amidst disease, war, and suffering. Her upbringing fostered in Ruth a desire to become a missionary and help others in the far corners of the world, particularly the mountains of Tibet.
However, it seemed God had other plans for her.
After attending boarding school in what is now North Korea, she headed to North Carolina for high school and college. At Wheaton College is where she met a handsome man fondly and aptly nicknamed “Preacher,” a young Billy Graham. That he was a driven evangelist was no secret and though he was smitten with Ruth, she had a decision to make. To marry him was to leave her dream for the mission field behind and join him in his crusade.
After much prayer, that is exactly what she did.
While her husband travelled and became a public figure, Ruth largely and happily stayed put. She raised their growing family with love, laughter, and spunk in the Appalachian Mountains and focused on ministry closer to home. Her heart for the forgotten- convicts, troubled teens, and drug addicts- and the message she spread on a smaller scale made an impact on many lives. She also wrote and co-authored 14 books and wrote plenty of poetry.
In her spare time, she could be found among her 14 translations of the Word and on her knees talking to God, her closest companion.
“It was her love for the Lord Jesus, with whom she walks every day, that made me want to love Him and walk with Him like that,” daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, has said.
Of course, having married “America’s Pastor,” Ruth partnered in his ministry in her own way- from clipping newspaper and magazine articles for sermon ideas to editing his books- and was her husband’s closest advisor and confidant.
“When it comes to spiritual things, my wife has had the greatest influence on my ministry,” remembered Graham.
She may have rarely stepped in front of a crowd, but she humbly inspired many throughout her life. Taken from a road sign she once spotted, Ruth’s character is reflected in the words she chose to be remembered by on her epitaph: “End of Construction: Thank You for Your Patience.”
What do you think you would want your epitaph to say? Or, have you ever tried to write a 6 word memoir? Leave your best shot in the comments. Hayley’s favorite wins a $10 Amazon gift card! Contest closes at 11:5pm on Sunday, April 1st!
Natalie Soldano is a freelance writer who earned her Creative Writing degree from the University of Washingon, beginning by creating stories on the family typewriter and submitting them to her first editor- her mother. In the rare moments she is not writing, she can be found devouring whatever book is in front of her, on the hunt for a great cup of coffee, or trying not to burn dinner. She would be in a musical if anyone would let her. Her passion for Christ and heart for encouraging young women in their faith often go hand-in-hand. She lives with her husband and five chickens in Seattle. Natalie can be found blogging at This Chickadee and on Twitter.