During the years I worked at The Rocky Mountain News, one of my favorite people was the great columnist Gene Amole. Frankly, most people in that newsroom would have said the same thing about him.
Amole was all about simplicity and writing with his own, unique voice. For example, his columns always opened with single-word ledes. One word, like I simple jab.
So when the crusty World War II vet announced that he had cancer, everyone could imagine how his final column about this fight (The Los Angeles Times noted that the 78-year-old Amole kept writing columns every single day -- for 17 weeks) would begin.
Sure enough, Amole started with: "Goodbye." Then he said what he had to say.
Now, when Americans think of the Rev. Billy Graham, they probably think of lots of things, starting with his preaching.
However, lots of his preaching and other commentaries were -- for decades -- filed away or transcribed and then filed by topics. When people wrote him letters with questions, this material was used in Graham's short "My Answer" newspaper features for the Tribune syndicate.
Thus, when Graham died, you knew that there was a syndicated column that had been filed away many years earlier, during his prime, to answer a logical final question, one that I am sure the great evangelist heard many, many times (almost as many times as the "who will be the next Billy Graham?" question).
That question: "Mr. Graham, how would you like to be remembered?"
To my surprise, I didn't see any references -- in the oceans of ink poured out after his death -- to what Graham had to say in that "final" column. His answer was pretty much what he told me when I spent a day at his office and house, in interviews preceding his 1987 crusade in Denver.
So here is a sample of that Graham "My Answer" feature:
Editor’s note: Before his death, Billy Graham approved the following response as his final My Answer column. Mr. Graham’s column will continue in some form.
I hope I will be remembered as someone who was faithful -- faithful to God, faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and faithful to the calling God gave me not only as an evangelist, but as a husband, father and friend.
I’m sure I’ve failed in many ways, but I take comfort in Christ’s promise of forgiveness, and I take comfort also in God’s ability to take even our most imperfect efforts and use them for His glory.
By the time you read this, I will be in heaven, and as I write this I’m looking forward with great anticipation to the day when I will be in God’s presence forever.
I’m convinced that heaven is far more glorious than anything we can possibly imagine right now, and I look forward not only to its wonder and peace, but also to the joy of being reunited with those who have gone there before me, especially my dear wife, Ruth. The Bible says, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
But I won’t be in heaven because I’ve preached to large crowds or because I’ve tried to live a good life.
As the old saying goes: Read it all.