Why did such a simple song bring so many to tears this morning all across this world?
“Just As I Am” isn’t just any song. The man who sang it, Michael W. Smith, isn’t just any musician. The place where it was sung isn’t just any location. And the man for whom it was sung wasn’t just any evangelist.
On Feb. 21, 2018, Billy Graham, at age 99, left this world to spend eternity with the savior he loved. On Wednesday morning, February 28, the greatest evangelist the world has known lay in honor in the United States Capitol rotunda, surrounded by family, friends, heads of state, and other dignitaries.
During the ceremony, a man — self-accompanied on piano — sang “Just As I Am.” That man was Michael W. Smith, a multi-Grammy award-winning Christian musician whose friendship with Billy Graham spanned more than three decades.
In honor of one of Graham’s in-home crusades in 2013, called My Hope America, Smith was among 11 other artists who contributed a song to the CD that accompanied the movement. The song he contributed, “Take Me Home,” was “inspired by Mr. Graham’s longing for heaven,” as BillyGraham.org reported in 2013. “The song is a conversation Mr. Graham might have with Jesus when he gets there.”
As Smith took his place and began to play, his friend of more than 30 years lay near him in a simple pine plywood casket, made by inmates of Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana.
Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, chose his parents’ matching, simple caskets with crosses on top back in 2006.
Fittingly, the song Smith played, is also the title of Billy Graham’s autobiography. “Just As I Am” is the simple song that played at the end of nearly every Billy Graham crusade, inviting the unsaved to come forward, just as they were, to receive the gift of eternal life.
“Just As I Am” was Graham’s signature hymn, as Religion News Service described it.
Following brief remarks by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and President Donald Trump, Barry C. Black, the chaplain of the United States Senate, led attendees in a prayer of benediction.
“I pray in the name of Billy Graham’s savior and closest friend, Jesus Christ, amen,” said Black in closing.
There could be no more fitting line as the world bids final farewells this week to a humble, blessed man of God, whose life’s mission was to share his faith with the world.
Here’s a link to the beautiful music of “Just As I Am.”
Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and regular contributor to LifeZette.