MONTREAT, N.C. - Ruth Bell Graham, the beloved wife of Rev. Billy Graham, died Thursday afternoon, surrounded by her husband and family.
According to her family, she died at 5:05 p.m. at her home at Little Piney Cove in Montreat, N.C.
A public funeral service to honor Mrs. Graham, has been scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 16 in Anderson Auditorium at the Montreat Conference Center.
"Ruth was my life partner, and we were called by God as a team," Rev. Graham said in a statement. "No one else could have borne the load that she carried. She was a vital and integral part of our ministry, and my work through the years would have been impossible without her encouragement and support."
Ruth Graham went into a coma Wednesday after a recent battle with pneumonia and an even longer battle with osteoarthritis in her back and neck.
"I am so grateful to the Lord that He gave me Ruth, and especially for these last few years we've had in the mountains together," Rev. Graham said. "We've rekindled the romance of our youth, and my love for her continued to grow deeper every day. I will miss her terribly, and look forward even more to the day I can join her in Heaven."
Life After Death
In a 1991 interview with CBN, Ruth Graham shared a very poignant perspective on death and dying.
"We look at death from the wrong point of view," she said. "We think of how much we're missing the one going home. We're not looking at it from God's point of view: a child's coming home, and all the excitement in Heaven when one of God's children is coming home."
Ruth Graham will be buried at the foot of a cross-shaped walkway in the prayer garden on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte.
Earlier this year, the Grahams agreed together that they would be buried side-by-side at the Library.
A public service will be held Saturday, June 16 at 2 p.m. to honor Ruth Graham. The funeral will be held in Anderson Auditorium at the Montreat Conference Center in Montreat, N.C.
A private ceremony will be held Sunday for the burial.
Daughter of a Missionary
Mrs. Graham grew up the daughter of medical missionaries to China. She was born June 10, 1920, in Qingjiang, Kiangsu, China.
Her dream was to be a missionary to that country, but she later realized it was her dream, not God's plan for her.
"I wanted to go to Tibet because so few people had gotten there with the Gospel. It wasn't a call from God. It was a pipe dream," she told CBN in 1991.
She'd once said as a young woman that she was willing to be a martyr for Christ. When asked about this, she remarked that it is a whole lot harder to live for Christ than to die for Him.
"Her parents exercised a profound effect upon the development of her character and laid the foundations for who she was," said the couple's youngest daughter, also named Ruth.
A Marriage Ordained by God
Ruth Graham met her husband at Wheaton College in Illinois. They were married in August 1943.
"If I had not been smitten with love at first sight of Ruth Bell I would certainly have been the exception. Many of the men at Wheaton thought she was stunning," he said.
Despite the fact that she did not want to get married, she and Billy dated and he was able to coax her away from work as a foreign missionary.
Throughout the years, she dealt frankly with Billy Graham's frequent trips as he ministered around the country.
"I'd rather have a little of Bill than a lot of any other man" she said.
"Ruth's marriage to her husband Billy was a true and loving partnership," President Bush said Thursday after her death was announced. "As the wife of the world's most beloved evangelist, she inspired people around the world with her humor, intelligence, elegance, and kindness."
Accomplishments Far and Wide
Her husband's busy schedule left her with the bulk of the responsibility of raising the couple's five children. As such, she was an integral part of Billy Graham's ministry, and he often turned to her for advice.
"I don't believe Mother has adequately been recognized and honored for what she had done; because, without her, Daddy's ministry would not have been possible," said the couple's youngest daughter Ruth.
"What she witnessed in her family home, she practiced for herself -- dependence on God in every circumstance, love for His word, concern for others above self, and an indomitable spirit displayed with a smile," she said.
Throughout her life, Ruth Graham wrote or co-wrote 14 books, including "Footprints of a Pilgrim" which contains poetry and memories dear to her heart.
She and her husband were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for "outstanding and lasting contributions to morality, racial equality, family, philanthropy, and religion" in 1996.
Ruth Graham turned 87 on Sunday.