I don’t want to let the week go without highlighting an amazing article from The Washington Post. Laura Sessions Stepp had truly amazing access to a few members of the Billy Graham family as they tried to work out a major family disagreement.
The piece is just a fascinating, if uncomfortable, look at sibling rivalry. Billy and Ruth Graham are advancing in years. And a battle is brewing over where they should be buried.
Ruth wants to be buried on a piece of property in the North Carolina mountains.
Their son Franklin wants them to buried at a new center designed to honor their memory. And Billy hasn’t made a decision. Crime novelist Patricia Cornwell visited the Grahams to describe what that burial site would be like:
The building, designed in part by consultants who used to work for the Walt Disney Co., is not a library, she says, but a large barn and silo — a reminder of Billy Graham’s early childhood on a dairy farm near Charlotte. Once it’s completed in the spring, visitors will pass through a 40-foot-high glass entry cut in the shape of a cross and be greeted by a mechanical talking cow. They will follow a path of straw through rooms full of multimedia exhibits. At the end of the tour, they will be pointed toward a stone walk, also in the shape of a cross, that leads to a garden where the bodies of Billy and Ruth Graham could lie.
Throughout the tour, there will be several opportunities for people to put their names on a mailing list.
“The whole purpose of this evangelistic experience is fundraising,” Cornwell says to Billy Graham. “I know who you are and you are not that place. It’s a mockery. People are going to laugh. Please don’t be buried there.”
Billy Graham’s eyes never leave Cornwell’s face as she talks. Ruth Graham sighs. A lot.
“It’s a circus,” Ruth says at one point, softly. “A tourist attraction.”
It’s a brutal and unseemly situation that is beautifully rendered by Sessions Stepp. Franklin Graham is the more overt bad guy in the scenario — he wants the talking cow after all. But brother Ned Graham doesn’t come off much better as ringleader of the opposing side — unless inviting The Washington Post into your private family battle is now considered okay.
Anyway, I just wanted to point it out as a fantastic read even if it’s sympathetic to one side of the battle. The Post put this story as its lead front-pager on Wednesday and let the reporter have enough words to lay it all out. I’m sure that something as salacious as controversy in the Graham family is worth a bit more ink.