Billy Graham in exile

When addressing members of the Evangelical Press Association in April, Anne Graham Lotz cited her father as a Christian who has remained focused on evangelism, even at age 86. Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times provides the details on what a toll Graham's age has taken on his health, and the result is far more interesting than a snapshot of a plaster saint:

The evangelist shuffles with a walker down a small ramp into his living room. He has prostate cancer, hydrocephalus and the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, and last year broke a hip and his pelvis. He says he leaves the mountain only three or four times a year, and cannot even remember his last time down.

. . . Although Mr. Graham moved and spoke slowly, his blue eyes were sharp. He wore a bright blue blazer that matched his eyes, and pressed blue jeans. He said that every day from about 11 a.m. on, he goes numb over most of his body and especially in his face. "I don't feel normal. It's a neurological thing," he said. "If I tell my hand to reach up it's a delayed action between my brain and what happens."

Goodstein interviewed Graham for an hour on the porch of his mountainside home in Montreat, N.C., as he prepared for a new crusade at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. She acts on the rare opportunity to ask Graham about his embarrassing remarks on Jews (in a private but taped conversation with Richard Nixon in 1972) and his son Franklin's remarks about Islam: "We had an understanding a long time ago, he speaks for himself." Pressed further, he responded, "Let's say, I didn't say it."

She ends with the clear parallels between Graham's suffering and that of Pope John Paul II:

Mortality is on his mind. Of the pope's funeral, he said, "I watched every bit of it." Asked why, he said: "He was teaching us how to suffer, and he taught us how to die. I didn't agree with him on everything theologically, but as a person and as a man, he set a great example and he was a wonderful personal friend to me."

Mr. Graham said that with each health setback, "I've rejoiced in all of it." The Lord, he said, was making it possible for him to relate to other suffering people.

The other night he said he caught an old clip of himself being interviewed on "Larry King Live." "I looked at myself, it was only six or seven years ago, but I looked so vigorous," he said. "And I thought to myself, how different things were to me then than they are now."

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