On Billy Graham’s 98th birthday, Will Graham reflects on being his grandson
Wherever I go around the world, I’m always asked the same question: What’s it like being the grandson of Billy Graham? It’s a little bit awkward to answer that, because the fact of the matter is that I’ve never known anything different.
As a grandson, the biggest oddity for me was that my grandfather was on television. We lived in a small rural community in the mountains of western North Carolina, and we only got three channels. Though we now look back and cherish those childhood memories of seeing my grandfather preaching on television, at the time we really wished that they would have stuck with the regularly scheduled Dukes of Hazzard episode!
I was thinking recently about my early memories of my grandfather, and my mind drifted back to a day in my childhood. To be honest, it’s one of those memories that seems a bit abstract as an adult. I can’t remember when or where it was, but I believe I was about 10 years old.
As a child, you have a sort of tunnel vision. You may be aware of the pressing mass of people around you, but not necessarily of the faces, voices or circumstances. A parent’s reassuring palm on your back, steering you through the crowd, is all you really need.
On this particular day, I turned the corner, and there my grandfather stood surrounded by people. I couldn’t help it. I took off running for him, barely aware of the orderly line that had already formed in the hotel lobby.
I had no idea that the mass of people around me were there for the same reason I was—to see my grandfather!
Suddenly, a big arm swooped down and blocked my path. It was a security officer who told me that I would need to get in the line like everybody else.
“Wait your turn,” the big man told me.
I remember nervously looking to my grandfather, unsure of what was happening. He caught a glimpse of me and a broad smile grew across his face. He swung his arms wide open and called for me, and I rushed into his embrace.
There, in front of everybody and with a job to do, the “public” Billy Graham showed everybody in line the “private” man that I knew as “Daddy Bill.” He held me in a great big, enveloping hug and made me feel like I was the only person in the room, just moments after I had almost been turned away.
Now, I don’t say this to brag about being able to go to the front of the line, and I certainly apologise to anybody reading this if I cut in front of you!
The reason I share this—I guess—is to answer the question posed above: “What’s it like being the grandson of Billy Graham?”
The answer is that it’s amazing. It’s not amazing because he was the man on television, or because there were people lined up and waiting to see him. Those were interesting things that didn’t necessarily register at the time.
No, it’s amazing being Billy Graham’s grandson because of that gentle man who was willing to take time out of his schedule and humble himself in front of a multitude of people. It’s because he’s a grandfather who would stop everything to show love to his grandson.
Though the details have faded, I haven’t forgotten how that made me feel. Now, as a grown man myself, the impact of that beautiful gesture is even more precious.
Happy birthday, Daddy Bill! I love you and am so proud of you!