“Mama was always a great example to us children in every way.” – Franklin Graham
“Love is patient, and love is kind. Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” –1 Corinthians 13:4-7
God was the most important part of Ruth Bell Graham’s life, and it was evident in the raising of her five children. Mrs. Graham showed her children patience, love, kindness, grace, and honor. She protected her children; she trusted and hoped for her children. She persevered in motherhood even through the challenges of raising five children while her husband, Billy Graham, traveled all over the world and preached the Gospel.
Even as youngsters, Mrs. Graham’s children recognized how much their mom did for them. A young Franklin Graham gifted a “World’s Greatest Mother” trophy to his mother. As a child, Franklin was always getting himself into trouble. He shared a story from his childhood, in his book Rebel with a Cause when his mom gave him grace and patience, making her, in his eyes, the “world’s greatest mother.”
“One morning Mama called me to get up for school. I had been out late the night before, and I didn’t feel like budging. My mother is a very unpredictable woman, and I’m sure I get plenty of my spunk from her. I was half-asleep, thinking she had given up on waking me. She quietly walked in my room, grabbed the overflowing ashtray by my bed, and dumped the cigarette butts and ashes all over my head. “Now get up!” she said. I jumped up, madder than a hornet. I could hear her laughing as she walked down the hall. The next night I locked my door. The following morning Mama found a little firecracker of mine in her tool box, lit the fuse, and slide it under the door. To say the least, I sprang up thinking a terrorist car bomb had gone off. Mama wasn’t about to give up – neither was I. The next morning not only did I have the door locked, but I had wedged a wet bath towel into the crack under my door. I thought for sure I was safe from a firecracker blowing me out of bed. About that time, I heard Mama coming down the hall. I was in bed laughing to myself as I heard her jiggle the door handle and try to push something under the door. I had outfoxed her this time. But Mama, being the resourceful woman she is, persisted. All of a sudden I heard the window in my brother’s room next door squeak open. I slid out of bed and peeked out the window. Here came Mama crawling on all fours across the roof! This time she was carrying a cup of water, which she gripped in her teeth. I stifled a laugh. She was planning to douse me. Just as she got to my window, I grinned at her and said “Sorry!” and slammed and locked the window. I stood there laughing and making faces at her as she peered into the window. There she was wondering what to do next. She reminded me of our cat with a dead mouse in its mouth, standing at the window wanting to come in. She couldn’t help herself – she grinned, too, in spite of the cup. Because the roof had a fairly steep pitch, now she had to back up on all fours. It was a sight to behold! Suddenly, though, this wasn’t so funny. I worried a little about her sliding off the roof, but it was obvious she was quite surefooted and would be okay. I made it to school on time that day too. These confrontations with Mama weren’t mean or bitter. On the one hand, my parents made it clear what they would accept or reject in my values and behavior. But on the other hand, they never squashed my individuality or demeaned me as a person. They knew much more clearly than I did the pressures I faced being a “preacher’s kid” as well as the oldest son of a “Christian legend.” I’m sure God gave them wisdom to know that if they pushed me too hard to conform, I might take off running and never come back – not just away from them, but perhaps from God too. By throwing in good doses of humor and fun, our relationship was full of grace and had some space for the tensions to ease. I didn’t always agree with my parents and certainly at the time didn’t appreciate much their lifestyle and values. But I respected them and never doubted that they loved me.”
Of Ruth, Billy Graham said she “was a wonderful mother… her task wasn’t easy since I was away from home so much, but she handled our children with both great love and wise discipline” He once described his wife’s nature: “Her disposition is the same all the time – very sweet and very gracious and charming.” In her unwavering disposition and commitment to the Lord, Ruth Graham was honored with the title of “World’s Greatest Mother” by her young son, Franklin Graham.
“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” Proverbs 31:28-31, ESV
To learn more about the life of Ruth Bell Graham, visit the Billy Graham Library’s Journey of Faith. Plan your visit.