CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The children of Reverend Billy Graham honored their father's memory when they spoke at his funeral Friday afternoon at the Billy Graham Library.
Rev. Graham died at his home in Montreat, North Carolina last week at the age of 99. His funeral was held at the Billy Graham Library after a week of public visitation at the Library and in Washington, DC at the Capitol Rotunda.
Four of his children spoke near the beginning of the service under a big tent.
"I'm the eldest. I tell people that I don't want to be called the oldest or the eldest in the family," daughter Virginia "Gigi" Graham said. "I want to be called the one that Daddy loved the longest."
"I've read many, many articles, I've seen things on television, the cards that so many have written and there are so many adjectives that have been given about Daddy and they are all so wonderful." she continued adding that none of them described her father as well as a poem that his late wife, Ruth Graham, wrote when she was a teenager.
"Her parents had taught her to pray, even at that early age, for the man that God would prepare for her, Gigi Graham said. "And so there was a little boy, here in Charlotte, milking cows every morning and every afternoon and he had no idea that there was a little girl praying for him in China."
"The Lord answered every single one of those prayers for Mother and many more," Gigi Graham said. "We are now grateful that God has now brought them back together again for eternity."
Daughter Anne Graham Lotz, founder of the nonprofit AnGeL Ministries, remembered her father's probing questions during the family's daily devotionals.
"My mother taught me by her example to love reading my Bible every day," she said. "My daddy, by his example, taught me to think about what I read."
Anne Graham Lotz said that she believes God is sending a message by bringing Graham to Heaven.
Lotz said: "I believe God is saying: 'Wake up church! Wake up world!'"
Ruth Graham started with a joke that she always had to follow her older sister, Gigi.
She then thanked the thousands in attendance saying that "everyone has a Billy Graham story," including President Donald Trump who says his father took him to see Graham during a crusade in New York.
Ruth talked about her personal life, saying that she got divorced after a 21 year-long marriage and moved out to be closer to her sister. She met a man through her church and "we dated hard."
She recalls how her family told her to take it slow and get to know him more, but "I was stubborn." She married him on New Year's Eve. She says she regretted it right away and within five weeks had to get away.
"I fled. I was afraid of him," she recalled. "What was I going to do? I wanted to talk to my mother and father. It was a two-day drive. Questions swirled in my mind. What was I going to say to Daddy? What was I going to say to Mother?"
"We live on the side of a mountain and as I wound my self up the mountain, I rounded the last bend in my father's driveway and my father was standing there waiting for me," she said through tears. "As I got out of the car, he wrapped his arms around me and said 'welcome home.' There was no shame, there was no blame, there was no condemnation - just unconditional love. My father was not God, but he showed me what God was like that day."
One of Rev. Billy Graham's two sons, Nelson "Ned" Graham, had the shortest of the tributes, speaking for less than a minute.
"I just want you to know that my father was FAT – faithful, available, teachable. May we all be that way," Ned Graham said.
All four siblings spoke before Rev. Franklin Graham, who gave the main funeral message.
Rev Franklin Graham said that the famous evangelist was the same at home as he appeared to millions around the world.
He said "the Billy Graham that the world saw on television, the Billy Graham that the world saw in the big stadium was the same Billy Graham that we saw at home."
He added: "There weren't two Billy Grahams."
He also said his father believed in Heaven and has now gone on the journey that he'd been "looking forward to all of his life."
Franklin Graham now leads his father's evangelistic association and the relief agency Samaritan's Purse. He spoke from a podium used by his father for crusades in the 1990s.