In a 2006 Newsweek interview, Billy Graham famously said that “I had been taught all of my life how to die, but no one had ever taught me how to grow old.” In NEARING HOME, he says that people’s reactions to that statement prompted him to think about writing this very book --- about aging. “Believe me, it’s not easy.” NEARING HOME was published when Graham was 92, an age he never expected to reach, considering his family’s medical history.
"If this is indeed Graham’s last book, it is a solid, hopeful farewell."
If you’re looking for an “inside look” at the aging process, this isn’t your book. The narrative feels as if it’s written from a distance. Graham admits that he can’t get out of a chair by himself, that he’s encumbered by walkers, canes, wheelchairs, and that, with failing eyesight, he listens to, rather than watches, television. He says he is weak, exhausted by an hour-long visit. (Another implication of handicap: the press release says that his son “Franklin Graham, representing Billy Graham, is available for interviews.”) But beyond that, we don’t get a glimpse of his daily struggles or strained, straining efforts.
The book nevertheless is sprinkled with anecdotes: some replaying memories, some relaying experiences of friends, acquaintances and correspondents. You are introduced to men and women who are still contributing to their communities and the world, even if only by their fervent praying.
Chapters include pertinent scriptural reflection, and many delineate points of advice, for example, on preparing financially for retirement (“Consider the Golden Years”) and making attempts to positively influence the next generation, particularly grandchildren (“Influencing the Impressionable”) and fix broken relationships. He deals briefly with the debilitation of fears, reasonable and irrational; his antidote is largely scriptural --- good foundational advice --- but on this count he might have provided more practical teaching.
This would make a good gift for Christians or seekers who are in their retirement years --- especially those approaching 80 or further up the ladder. There is advice here for those facing retirement, including a chapter early in the book (“Don’t Retire from Life”), giving advice on making retirement decisions --- when to do it, where to go. But anyone I know in that category isn’t quite ready for a book that looks like it’s for someone a generation older than he or she.
If this is indeed Graham’s last book, it is a solid, hopeful farewell. Graham looks at life beyond death even as he is grounded in present realities, trying to serve his Lord as long as he still has breath.