Their final visit with brother Billy Graham: ‘Now he’s coming home’

Their final visit with brother Billy Graham: ‘Now he’s coming home’
Jean Ford and her brother Billy Graham in 2007 in Montreat. (Credit: Photo provided to the Observer courtesy of Leighton Ford)
Jean Ford and her brother Billy Graham in 2007 in Montreat. (Credit: Photo provided to the Observer courtesy of Leighton Ford)

CHARLOTTE, NC (Tim Funk/The Charlotte Observer) - It was to be Jean and Leighton Ford's last visit with Billy Graham – her older brother, his brother-in -law and fellow evangelist.

A few weeks ago, they traveled from Charlotte – where Billy and Jean both grew up on a dairy farm – to Montreat, where the 99-year-old Billy had long lived in a mountaintop home.

"His sight and hearing were not good," Leighton Ford said Wednesday, not long after the news broke that Billy Graham had died. "And I wondered if he really knew we were there."

But then, just as they were about to leave, Jean Ford, Graham's only surviving sibling, said to Billy: "I wish I could take you back to Charlotte with me."

And Billy responded: "Oh, my."

Graham died at 7:46 a.m. Wednesday. Plans call for him to be buried beside his late wife, Ruth, on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte.

Said Leighton Ford on Wednesday: "Now he's coming home to Charlotte."

At news of her brother's death, Leighton Ford said, Jean Ford said this about Billy: "He's where he wanted to be and where I wanted him to be (at his advanced age)."

'Preach the Gospel'

On Wednesday, Leighton Ford, Graham's associate at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for 30 years, also told another story. About how, a few years ago, during another visit to Montreat, he and Jean got Billy to talk about what he wanted said at his funeral.

Ford asked Billy if he'd want his sister to say a few words.

"I would be very honored," he answered.

Then they asked: What would you want her to say?

Billy's answer: "He tried to do what he thought he should."

They pressed: And what was that?

"Preach the Gospel," Billy said.

Leighton and Jean Ford were wed 64 years ago. And Billy Graham married them.