World-renowned evangelist Billy Graham will mark his 89th birthday on Wednesday by expressing his gratitude for his health, his family and the ongoing hope of being reunited with his wife, Ruth, in Heaven.
Since the passing of his spouse and ministry partner of nearly 64 years on June 14, Graham said he has been surprised at the depth of his grief, but simultaneously encouraged by the commensurate magnitude of God's grace.
"At times, I feel as if part of me has been ripped out, and in a sense that's what has happened, because Ruth was such an important part of my life," he said. "But my faith gives me great comfort, and I can't imagine going through something like this without strength that only the Lord can provide.
"It has been an added blessing that our five children have been so faithful in visiting and spending time with me," he added. "I am grateful for and proud of each of them."
On May 31, former Presidents Bush, Clinton and Carter joined Graham in Charlotte to help dedicate the new Billy Graham Library on the grounds of the international headquarters of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).
Since then, thousands of visitors have toured the facility, which will serve as an ongoing ministry presenting to future generations the message he has faithfully preached for more than sixty years.
While Graham has stayed close to home most of this year, he was hospitalized for a couple of weeks at the end of August for diagnosis and treatment of intestinal bleeding.
He has continued his recovery at home since being discharged on Aug. 30 from the nearby Mission Health and Hospitals in Asheville, N.C.
"I am looking forward to spending the holidays with family," Graham stated. "I know in many ways this time of year will be especially difficult without Ruth, who maintained many of our family traditions. But I am thankful for the confidence we have in Heaven. It is for this reason I will rejoice most in Christ's birth this Christmas."
Graham remains involved in active ministry as his heath allows, working on several writing projects and maintaining interest in the BGEA, the organization he founded in 1950. He also continues to support his son, Franklin, and grandson, Will Graham, in their respective evangelistic Festivals and Celebrations.