I’ve known Bill for twenty-eight years. I have never heard him speak a discouraging word. Never have I seen his vision dimmed or his ardor cooled. Never has he failed to talk about the greatness of God and reaching the world for Christ, his passion. Like the visionary evangelist John Wesley, he saw the entire world as his mission field.
This indomitable spirit and trust in Christ marked not only his life, but also his death. There are countless books written on how to live the Christian life, but very few about how to die the Christian death. It is in this regard that Bill Bright made another remarkable contribution, for he not only lived well—he died well.
Over two years ago, Bill was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a dreadful disease in which the lungs lose their elasticity. Unless the heart gives out first, death is by slow suffocation, one of the most painful ways to die.
I met with Bill a couple of years ago in his apartment right after he had been diagnosed. His spirit was upbeat and strong. He said he was ready to meet the Lord. I saw no hint of despair or discouragement, even as he was facing his own death—and likely, a very hard one. I told him that my friend Bill Simon, diagnosed with the same disease, died of a heart attack before he reached the final stages. That was the only time I saw Bill waver. "That would be good," he said, and then he immediately talked about the Lord’s will being done. The final stage of Bill’s pilgrimage was not easy.
But Bill never quit. His wife, Vonette, may have seen moments of anguish and distress, but every visitor, myself included, came away with the same impression. It was uncanny—indeed supernatural—that Bill maintained his buoyant spirit with every breath, labored though it was, for the last two-and-a-half years as he battled the disease.
I spoke to him a week or so before he died. I called to lift his spirits, but he lifted mine. He told me that these two years had been the most productive in his ministry, that he’d been able to write more, direct more projects, and launch more initiatives than ever before. He kept praising God even as he was gasping for breath.