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Eulogy for Richard Nixon
Given by Dr. Billy Graham
On behalf of the family of Richard Nixon, I welcome you who have gathered to join with them in paying final respects to the memory of Richard Milhous Nixon, the thirty-seventh President of the United States.
Today, in this service, we remember with gratitude his life and his accomplishments and we give thanks to God for those things he did to make our world a better place. Through this service may our dedication to serving others be deepened and may our eyes be lifted to that which is eternal.
Let us hear the word of the Lord: "Now help us in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Our God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."
The great king of ancient Israel, David, said on the death of Saul, who had been a bitter enemy, "Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?"
Today we remember that with the death of Richard Nixon, a great man has fallen. We have heard that the world has lost a great citizen and America has lost a great statesman. And those of us that knew him have lost a personal friend.
You know, few events touch the heart of every American as profoundly as the death of a President, for the President is our leader. And every American feels that he knows him in a very special way, because he hears his voice so often, sees him on television, reads about him in the press. And so we all mourn his loss and feel that our world is a bit lonelier without him. But to you who were close to him, this grief is an added pain, because you wept when he wept and you laughed when he laughed.
And here amidst these familiar surroundings under these California skies, his earthly life has come full circle. It was here that Richard Nixon was born and reared, that his life was molded. But the Scripture teaches that there is a time to be born, a time to live, and a time to die. Richard Nixon's time to die came last Friday evening.
Since 1990, he had had a brilliant young cardiologist as his doctor by the name of Jeffrey Borer, and last Tuesday, the day after the President suffered his stroke, the doctor came by the New York hospital to examine him. He was partially paralyzed and could not speak, but he was still alert. And as the doctor talked, the President reached out and grabbed his arm with an unusual strength. Then as the doctor turned to leave, something made him turn around and look back to the bed where Richard Nixon was lying, and just at that moment, the President waved and gave his trademark thumbs-up signal and smiled. That took determination, which he had, and we have heard about already today. It was an example of fighting on and never giving up that Jeffrey Borer will never forget.
Now, President Nixon's great voice, his warm, intelligent eyes, his generous smile are missed as we gather here again, just 10 months after we were here when his beloved Pat went to heaven.
A few months ago he was asked in a television interview, "How would you like to be remembered?" He thought a moment, and then replied, "I'd like to be remembered as one who made a difference," and he did make a difference in our world, as we have heard so eloquently this afternoon.
There is an old saying that a tree is best measured when it is laid down. The great events of his life have already been widely recounted by the news media this week, and it is not my purpose to restate what others have already said so eloquently, including those who have spoken so movingly here today.
I think most of us have been staggered by the many things that he accomplished during his life. His public service kept him at the center of the events that have shaped our destiny. This week, Time Magazine stated that "By sheer endurance he rebuilt his standing as the most important figure of the post-war era."
During his years of public service, Richard Nixon was on center stage during our generation. He had a great respect for the Office of the President. I never heard him one time criticize a living President who was in the office at that time. There is an old Indian saying: "Never criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes."
However, there was another side to him that is more personal, more intimate, more human that we have heard referred to several time today, and that was his family, his neighbors, and his friends, who are gathered here today. It was a side that many people did not see, for Richard Nixon was a private person in some ways. And then some people thought there was a shyness about him. Others sometimes found him hard to get to know. There were hundreds of little things he did for ordinary people that no one would have ever known about. He always had a compassion for people who were hurting. No one could ever understand Richard Nixon unless they understood the family from which he came, the Quaker church that he attended, Whittier College where he studied, and the land and the people in this area where you are sitting today. His roots were deep in this part of California.
But there is still another side to him that was his strong and growing faith in God. He never wore his religious faith on his sleeve, but was rather reticent to speak about it in public. He could have had more reasons than most for not attending church while he occupied the White House when there were so many demonstrations and threats going on. But he wanted to set an example, and he decided to have services most Sundays in the White House with a small congregation and a clergyman from various denominations.
And I remember before one of the first services that President Nixon had at the White House, Ruth and I and two of our friends were in the private quarters with him. I will never forget the President sitting down on the spur of the moment at an old battered Steinway that they had there playing the old hymn, "He will hold me fast for my Savior loves me so; He will hold me fast."
John Donne said that there is a democracy about death. It comes equally to us all and makes us all equal when it comes. And I think today every one of us ought to be thinking about our own time to die, because we, too, are going to die, and we are going to have to face Almighty God with the life that we lived here. There comes a time when we have to realize that life is short and in the end the only thing that really counts is not how others see us here, but how God sees us and what the record books of heaven have to say. For the believer who has been to the cross, death is no frightful leap into the dark, but is an entrance into a glorious new life. I believe that Richard Nixon right now is with Pat again, because I believe that in heaven we will know each other.
The Bible says for to me to live is Christ and die is gain; there is a gaining about death. For the believer, the brutal fact of death has been conquered by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For the person who has turned from sin and has received Christ as Lord and Savior, death is not the end. For the believer there is hope beyond the grave. There is a future life.
Yesterday, as his body was escorted to the plane for its final journey here, the familiar strains of a hymn he especially loved, maybe the hymn that he loved the most, were played; "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I'm found; was blind, but now I see. Through many dangers, toils and snares, I've already come; `tis grace that brought me safe thus far, for grace will take me home."
That hymn was written 200 years ago by an Englishman named John Newton. He was a cruel man, a captain of a slave ship. But one night in a fierce storm he turned to God and committed his life to Christ. Newton not only became a preacher of the Gospel, but he influenced William Wilberforce and others in Parliament to bring an end to the slave trade. John Newton came to know the miracle of God's amazing grace and it changed his life, and it changed our lives as well.
And so we say farewell to Richard Nixon today with hope in our hearts, for our hope is in the eternal promises of the Almighty God.
Years ago, Winston Churchill planned his own funeral, and he did so with the hope of the Resurrection and eternal life which he firmly believed in. And he instructed after the benediction that a bugler positioned high in the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral would play taps, the universal signal that says the day is over. But then came a very dramatic moment. As Churchill had instructed, another bugler was placed on the other side of the massive dome, and he played the notes of revelry, the universal signal that a new day has dawned and it is time to arise. That was Churchill's testimony; that at the end of history, the last note will not be taps, it will be revelry.
There is hope beyond the grave, because Jesus Christ has opened the door to heaven for us by His death and resurrection. Richard Nixon had that hope, and today that can be our hope as well.
And to the children and the grandchildren, I would say to you, you have that hope within you hearts. I had the privilege of knowing them when they were little girls, and I have seen them as they've come to know Christ, and to know God in the lives. And we look forward to seeing Dick and Pat some day in the future again.
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