I Remember Winston Churchill ...
First, thank you for the many messages of appreciation (and approval) for the three previous remembrances in this new feature. At age 93 I am determined to follow the adage: "Don't count the years; count the memories."
I would like to begin each of these remembrances with the words, "I remember, and thus this one can begin: I remember Winston Churchill ..."
I am speaking of the one time I saw and heard him in person, on March 1, 1955. It was his last speech in the House of Commons, and was, in effect, his farewell to the British people whom he had served for so many years. He was 81 at the time, and a month later he retired from his second term as British Prime Minister.
I was living and working in Britain at the time—we had finished the Billy Graham 1954 Greater London crusade, and were into the final details of preparation for the All Scotland Crusade in Glasgow, to begin three weeks later, on March 21. A Scottish Conservative Member of Parliament, John Henderson, offered me a seat in the gallery to hear Churchill's final speech, and I traveled down to London to take advantage of that opportunity.
I went to the modest hotel in the Strand where Mr. Henderson stayed while Parliament was in session ... we had breakfast ... and then went to the House of Commons and almost had to fight our way through the crowds to get in.
It was, in every sense, a memorable event. Churchill was always a master of oratory. At 81 he had lost none of that ability. His speech was a sober one—it dealt with the reality of the atom bomb, and the threat of nuclear warfare. He made the premise that the major deterrent for a nuclear attack was the fear of retaliation. He warned of MAD—Mutual Assured Destruction. He was given a quiet and respectful hearing. Some of his greatest, most memorable phrases were included ... one has to recall "safety will be the sturdy child of terror, and survival the twin brother of annihilation." And his final words were: "Never flinch, never weary, never despair."
It was a day I will never forget. Today, some 57 years later, in my library the books most worn from much use (aside from the large type King James Bible Billy Graham gave me) is the 4 volume set of Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples.
A spiritual lesson? From the man who loved his brandy and large cigars? One can be found in his plans for his own funeral. It was to take place in St. Paul's Cathedral in London. He directed that some of the great hymns of the church be sung, and that some of the Scripture passages of victory be read. Then, following the benediction, a bugler at one side of the great dome of St. Paul's was to play "Taps," signifying the close of a day ... and then from the other side of the great dome, another bugler was to play "Reveille."
Churchill's final message? For the Christian the final note is not "Taps," the end of life, but rather "Reveille," the call to awaken and arise to a new life.