I heard Billy Graham speak only twice, and I only remember one thing he said.
Billy Graham came to Toronto for the fourth and final time in 1995. The visit didn’t go as planned. On June 6, he told business and civic leaders that he’d had “a hard couple of hours physically.” He collapsed during the speech and was rushed to hospital.
“His blood volume dropped by about a third,” says Dr. Kenneth Gamble, executive director of the Missionary Health Institute in Toronto. “This would be a serious situation for anybody, to lose so much blood so quickly.” Graham missed the first three nights of the evangelistic meetings.
“All of a sudden, I didn't even know where I was,” he said later. “That's never happened before. I began to realize how quickly life can end.”
On the second last night, Graham finally spoke. I remember the anticipation, and one of of the first things he said, the only thing I remember from hearing him preach. “They told me to dress down,” he quipped, wearing a suit, “and so I did.”
The audience laughed. What a crazy thing to remember out of all the important things he said.
Graham knew he was 76 years old, and didn’t pretend otherwise. He didn’t rely on tricks or gimmicks. He spoke with an authority that came from decades of faithfulness and from a simple focus on Christ, not to mention that the fact that he’d fought his way from a hospital bed to plead with souls to do business with Jesus.
I don’t remember much about Graham from the two times I heard him. But I remember that he didn’t try to impress. He had more urgent business. And so do we.