Ruth Bell Graham was a woman of many talents. Not only was she a gifted artist, but also a writer of poetry and stories. Ruth was also known to keep trinkets and mementos through the years and was often called a “pack rat.” She recounts the running discussion of her “collection” in her book, Legacy of a Pack Rat.
“You need to get a bulldozer to clean out your attic,” Bill exclaimed one day. “All that junk—just clean it out and burn it. You’ll never use it. And what will the family do with it after you’ve gone?”
“Get a bulldozer and clean it out,” I replied.
And do it went. For years. And the wonderful old attic continued to accept contributions graciously, endlessly, never complaining.
A trunk going back to my childhood in China . . . Newspaper clippings of the fall of Shanghai to the Japanese in 1937 . . . High school in Korea, old love letters from Bill, boxes of photographs . . . An old Roman earthenware bowl dug up from the Thames River . . . A box of arrowheads and spearheads from Australia . . . Crutches to fit any height . . . Christmas ornaments . . . My old wedding dress (the veil was used to trim four bassinets; when Ned, the fifth, arrived he had to make do with a cradle) . . . Enough old luggage to start a used luggage shop . . .
A veritable treasure trove of disorganized surprises.
“When are you going to clear out the attic—all that old stuff you save? You’ll never use it. The children won’t know what to do with it—“
And so it has gone. Year after year.
One night Bill sat in the kitchen-den, ignoring the TV evening news, unthinkable for him. He was buried in a pile of notebook papers.
“Just look at these!” he exclaimed. “The nest stuff I’ve ever come across in all these years since Bible school . . . “
“What are they?” I asked.
“My old Bible school notes.”
“Where did you happen to get them?”
“At the Graham Center.” They kept originals, but they gave me these photocopies.”
I switched off the TV.
“And where did they happen to get that old notebook?” I asked.
Bill looked blank.
“Would you believe the attic?”
The next day Bill was talking on the phone telling a friend about his recent find. The friend must have asked him the same question I did, “Where had the archivist discovered the notebook?”
“Oh,” Bill replied casually, “it was found in Ruth’s attic.”
Three cheers for Pack Rats!
Our minds are like storage attics. The experts tell us they save everything we ever heard, saw, or experienced; stored away there somewhere.
We may not be able to find it, but it’s there.
Some of the bits and pieces stored away in my memory I’ve jotted down to enjoy or think about when I can’t sleep or am too tired to stir around much, or simply have the need to reflect on times past, friends, funny events, how the Lord’s goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life.
Here and there may surface something lost long ago and, I thought, forever.
Purchase Legacy of a Pack Rat at Ruth’s Attic in the Billy Graham bookstore or online at BillyGrahamBookstore.org.
When Billy Graham went to be with the Lord on February 21, 2018, he left behind a legacy of faithfulness, humility and a lifelong devotion to proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. After more than 99 years on the planet, he also left behind a treasure trove of historical records, sermon manuscripts, letters, photos, audio and video collections, and memorabilia.
These historical artifacts used to be housed in several locations, including Wheaton College in Illinois; Mr. Graham’s office in Montreat, North Carolina; the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte. Last year, Franklin Graham announced his father’s archive material would be consolidated and housed under one roof.
Located at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C., the Billy Graham Archive and Research Center will allow researchers and students to have the opportunity to look behind the scenes at the evangelist’s ministry—and encourage them to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel” (Mark 16:15, ESV). READ MORE