Thank you so much for notifying us of Graham’s passing.
I received your note on my father’s 93rd birthday. I’d spent the day caring for my 92-year-old stepmother and taking her to the doctor. After settling her back in her room in her retirement center, I went over to Dad’s Adult Care Home to wish him Happy Birthday. I think he knew who I was, and he smiled and sang, “Happy Birthday to Me”, but then he fell back into the blessed sleep of the aged.
I arrived home and checked my emails in case Bruce had tried to contact me—he’d just begun his long journey home from Ethiopia. I read your message, and I just cried. I cried for Graham’s family, I cried for you and the Pineknoll family, and I cried for myself. My earthly father was all but gone from me, and my two spiritual fathers, Malcolm and Graham Maxwell, were at rest.
I cannot send you a brief sentence or a succinct paragraph about his influence on my life; instead, I must share a little of my whole life’s story.
My mother died of leukemia when I was just 15, and while her death caused my older brother and younger sister to turn away from God, it had the opposite effect on me. I yearned to understand, to know His plan, to make sense of pain and death. I began to seek, and I will never forget the day I began to find.
I was in college, in the nurses’ dorm in Portland, when I received a letter from Bruce. At that time he was Malcolm Maxwell’s Greek II reader at WWC. We were not yet married, but we wrote frequently. This particular day he had enclosed a short article by Graham. I’ve since lost the letter and article, but it was about God and the Great Controversy in the universe, and it changed my life. I remember sitting there in my dorm room, reading this setting of God dealing with a universe-wide conflict and setting all things right, and I remember tears flowing down my cheeks. For the first time ever, religion and God made sense to me. Light dawned that day, and I have never ceased to thank God for it.
I phoned Bruce, and we talked about the article. He said that Malcolm had shared it with him, and his own response to it was so profound that he sent it on to me.
A year or so later, Bruce was still struggling with his spiritual identity (you may be able to relate to this—I don’t know—but we were brought up in the Adventism of the 60’s), and I was not sure if I should go ahead with our wedding plans. I was back on the WWC campus that quarter, so I did something I had never done before. I called Malcolm and asked if he would be willing to come over to the dorm and talk with me about Bruce. He came right over, listened carefully to my concerns, then he took what I have always thought was a great risk: he said to me, “Mary Lou, you don’t need to worry at all about Bruce. He will be fine.” I wondered how he knew, but I trusted him, and he married us four months later, right after our college graduation. Every year after that until his death, we communicated with Malcolm at Christmastime, and almost every time I reminded him of the gamble he had taken—and thanked him for it. He did seem to take some pride in this, and he always maintained a fatherly interest in our marriage.
One more thing about Malcolm—in those months while Bruce and I were struggling to separate our own religious experience from that of our parents and to find our own walk with God—on one of the darker days I remember asking Bruce if he knew any Christian who really was a changed person from believing in God. He thought quietly for a long while, and then said, “Yes. Malcolm. He is the best man I know. If there is a God, I am sure He is like Dr. Maxwell.”
After our marriage we moved to Loma Linda; I went to work for Dr. Judkins in Angio, and Bruce took med school in the 3 ¼ years allotted to his Class of ’74. During that time we often attended Graham’s SS Class. We were so impressed with his graciousness. Never did he attack his church or his critics; his focus was always on God. His light pointed heavenward. He did not try to convict us of our sins or even answer all our questions. Instead, he led us to study the Bible as a whole, to find what it says about God. And in doing that I fell in love with God, with the Gospel of John, the letter to the Romans, the Revelation. I treasure Habukkuk—who was not afraid to ask questions of God. I admire Moses and Abraham who were friends of God, but I love best of all the Christ who came to show us the Father, and who told us to no longer be His servants, but to be His friends (Jn 15:15).
Thank you, Graham. You have truly said of God what was right. You have directed us to the true Light. Someday in that sacred, joyful, holy place, we will rejoice with you and Malcolm when we finally get to speak face to face with our God.
Mary Lou Ham