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Ruth Graham 'close to going home to Heaven'

BGEA also announces Billy and Ruth will be buried at Charlotte library, not The Cove in Montreat.

From the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association comes word that Ruth is near death, and that she changed her mind about where she wants to be buried:

Earlier this spring, after much prayer and discussion, Ruth and I made the decision to be buried beside each other at the Billy Graham Library in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.

We have held this decision privately and only decided to announce it now that she is close to going home to Heaven.

Ruth is my soul mate and best friend, and I cannot imagine living a single day without her by my side. I am more in love with her today than when we first met over 65 years ago as students at Wheaton College.

Ruth and I appreciate, more than we can express, the prayers and letters of encouragement we have received from people across the country and around the world. Our entire family has been home in recent days and it has meant so much to have them at our side during this time. We love each one of them dearly and thank God for them.

Graham spokesman A. Larry Ross told reporters that Ruth's health had rallied after she was treated for pneumonia two weeks ago, but later deteriorated. Graham, 87, slipped into a coma this morning. The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that four of the couple's five children are at the Grahams' home in Montreat now, with the fifth, Ned, en route.

Update (6/14, 8:18 a.m.) after the jump

The Washington Post's Laura Sessions Stepp, who in December broke the story about the Graham family dispute over Billy and Ruth's burial site, has several details today.

[Though Ruth had earlier signed a document saying she wanted to be buried at The Cove and that "under no circumstances am I to be buried in Charlotte, N.C.,"] in March, Ruth and Billy signed another document saying they wanted to be buried in Charlotte, according to BGEA spokesman Larry Ross. Ross said the paper was signed in the presence of an attorney and a doctor. ...

After the Post story ran, Billy said he and Ruth would be buried at the Cove. In early January, David Bruce, Billy Graham's executive assistant, circulated among the family a tentative plan for Ruth's burial at the Cove. Asked two days ago whether that plan was still in place, Bruce said it was, as far as he knew.

Ned Graham said yesterday that when he visited his mother a week and a half ago, she told him she still intended to be buried at the Cove. He said he and his sister Anne first learned of the change last night.

"I know this goes against my mother's wishes," he said. ...

According to Ross, Ruth Graham has been alternately conscious and unconscious for a while. Earlier this week, with a doctor's approval, Billy and several of the children, including Franklin, decided to withdraw the solids and liquids from her feeding tube, Ross said.

Earlier in the week, she was talking and asking for Coca-Cola, chocolate and gravy, Ned said, and staff members occasionally slipped a bit onto her tongue.

It's ironic that Ruth's final moments are concurrent with this public family dispute. Ruth worked very hard to protect her family from public scrutiny, and to keep family tensions quiet.

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