CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Thousands of people from all walks of life – including a former president – filed slowly past the casket of the Rev. Billy Graham on Monday to pay their final respects to a man who reached millions with his message of salvation through Jesus Christ.

The heavy rain overnight tapered to a light, occasional drizzle around 8 a.m. Monday when the doors opened to the boyhood home of the famed evangelist, who died Wednesday at age 99. The rain had stopped by late afternoon when former President George W. Bush arrived with his wife, Laura.

Mourners of all races, young and old, some in suits and some in T-shirts and flip-flops, walked through the parlor where Graham’s closed casket lay on a black pedestal. They walked past family photos and a cross made of white lilies to see the simple plywood container made by prison inmates. At the door for the first few hours was Graham’s grandson, Roy, shaking the hand of every person who came to see his grandfather.

“I just wanted to tell them how much I appreciated the love for my family,” Roy Graham said.

And they responded with stories. Roy Graham said what moved him the most Monday were the dozens who paused and told him the exact moment and place Billy Graham came into their lives through his hundreds of crusades around the world.

Cecily Turner is one of them. Her mother was at Billy Graham’s 1957 New York crusade and she said he led her mother to salvation that day.

“I know she is in heaven thanking him right now,” she said.

Mother passed her faith on to daughter, and Turner said she passed it down to five children and four great-grandchildren.

“That’s an amazing thing,” she said.

Graham’s funeral is Friday, and President Trump said he will attend. Invitations were sent to all ex-presidents of the U.S.

Bush has said he chose Monday because he had a scheduling conflict with the funeral. He was greeted by Graham’s son Franklin and spent about 30 minutes with the family during a private viewing.

“Laura and I are honored to be able to come and pay our respects to the Graham family and, more importantly, to be able to say goodbye to a person who was influential in our lives and influential in the lives of millions,” Bush told reporters afterward.

He also brought condolences to the family from his father, George H.W. Bush, whom he described as a great friend of Graham’s.

“I know he wished he could come too, but he’s not moving around much these days,” Bush said.

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