Reverend Billy Graham's 'final crusade'

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The world said its final goodbye to Reverend Billy Graham Friday.

The 99-year-old Charlotte-born evangelist will be laid to rest after a private funeral service at the Billy Graham Library. Rev. Graham died at his home at 7:46 a.m. in Montreat on Feb. 21.  According to his doctor, Rev. Graham "just wore out," passing peacefully in his sleep. No one was with him except a nurse.

Graham's funeral service started at noon and was private, open only to 2,300 invited guests. The funeral was held under a huge white tent set up in the parking lot in front of the Billy Graham Library.

WATCH THE FULL SERVICE: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

"On February twenty-first, heaven came down," Graham's sister, Jean Ford, said. "They took my brother from me."

Graham's children, Virginia "Gigi" Graham, Anne Graham Lotz, Ruth Graham, Nelson "Ned" Graham, and Franklin Graham spoke about their father, each with a different message.

"I believe my father's death is as significant as his life, and his life was very significant," Lotz said."

She described how she read passages or scriptures to her father, upon request, always concluding with, "Daddy, I love you." His funeral was no different. "I will preach the word. I will do the work of an Evangelist and preach the gospel....I love you, daddy," Lotz said.

Billy Graham preached about heaven, wrote a book about heaven and is now "in heaven," Franklin Graham, said. "His journey is complete."

Franklin Graham said his father once told him: Someday you'll read that Billy Graham has died. Don't you believe it for a second. I'll be more alive than ever. I've just changed addresses, that's all.

The tent serves as a reminder of how Mr. Graham's ministry launched under "The Canvas Cathedral"—a white canvas tent during a 1949 Crusade in downtown Los Angeles, where 350,000 people heard him share the Gospel over a period of eight weeks.

"It was Mr. Graham's explicit intent that his funeral service reflect and reinforce the Gospel message he preached for more than 60 years," said Mark DeMoss, spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Franklin Graham delivered the funeral message and Dr. Donald Wilton and Dr. David Bruce spoke at the interment service. Dr. Wilton was Mr. Graham's pastor and a close friend in recent years. Dr. Bruce served for 23 years as Mr. Graham's executive assistant.

The funeral lasted around 90 minutes, as expected. You can find the full funeral program here.

Earlier in the week, President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence confirmed their attendance, along with North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, former Governor Pat McCrory, and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles.

Some of Graham's guests included Sarah Palin, Joel Osteen, Steve Curtis, Rudy Giuliani, Kathie L Gifford, Jerry Richardson, Rick Warren and Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Pence landed at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport just before 10:30 a.m. on board Air Force Two.

Trump landed about 30 minutes later, around 11 a.m.

The Bishop of Charlotte released a message from Pope Francis on the death of Rev. Billy Graham. 

The Billy Graham Parkway was closed in both directions between South Tryon Street (NC 49) and Tyvola Road at 12 a.m. Friday until the funeral ended.

There was a heavy police at the Library - including Billy Graham security, Highway Patrol, U.S Secret Service and Charlotte Mecklenburg Police (CMPD).

Graham lied in honor Wednesday and part of Thursday in Washington, where he counseled presidents and others over more than 60 years.

A departure ceremony was held Thursday morning as Graham's casket was removed from the U.S. Capitol Rotunda to return to Charlotte for Friday's services. Graham's son, Franklin Graham, tweeted that the time in Washington was very special for the family.

"My deep appreciation to the delegation from North Carolina who, this morning, presented me with the flag that flew over the Capitol while my father was there to lie in honor," Franklin Graham tweeted. "I am deeply touched and grateful."

Some 30 family members accompanied Graham's casket Wednesday to Washington, where he befriended presidents of both parties and counseled others over seven decades.

Graham's casket was carried into the U.S. Capitol Rotunda around 11 a.m. Wednesday and removed around 10 a.m. Thursday.

The family of Rev. Billy Graham watches as the casket of Rev. Billy Graham is carried up the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)

President Donald Trump and members of Congress honored Graham Wednesday during a ceremony on the arrival of Graham's casket at the U.S. Capitol.

"Billy Graham carried his message around the world, but his heart, like Franklin will tell you, was always in America," Trump said. The president said that Graham shared his message of faith with everyone who he met.

"We can only imagine the lives touched by Billy Graham," Trump continued, describing him as "an ambassador for Christ, who reminded the world of the power of prayer and the gift of God's grace."

"Everywhere he went he gave the same beautiful message. " "God loves you - that was his message. God loves you," Trump said.

The Rotunda entrances were draped with black fabric, and Graham's casket rested on a black-draped catafalque beneath the soaring ceiling and its painting, the "Apotheosis of Washington."

Over 13,000 people attended Rev. Billy Graham's public visitation Monday and Tuesday in Charlotte.

Visitors began paying respects at 8 a.m. Monday at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte. Graham's body was lying in repose at the Graham Family Homeplace through Tuesday.

Related: Click here more about "America's Pastor" Rev. Billy Graham

The homestead was built on the family's dairy farm in 1927 on Park Road and later moved to the grounds of the Billy Graham Library.

George Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush arrived just before 4 p.m. on Monday to pay tribute to Graham at the library bearing Graham's name.

Former President Bill Clinton paid his respects to the late Billy Graham on Tuesday at Graham's childhood home in Charlotte.

"Daddy, I won't see you on this earth again. But I'll see you again. I'll see you maybe soon. But not yet. To God be the glory," Franklin Graham said at the funeral.

"Amazing Grace" played by bagpipes concluded the service.

Reverend Graham was buried beside his beloved wife, Ruth, whose grave is at the foot of the cross-shaped brick walkway in the Library's Prayer Garden.

Ruth Bell Graham passed away in 2007.

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