I wrote these words six months ago: Paul Moore is dying. But his spirit and faith? They couldn’t be more alive.
With a body riddled with more tumors than scans could count, no one knew how long the father from Farmington, Utah, would live. As of that September story, Moore had already outlived the most optimistic prognoses.
But rather than counting sunsets, Moore was counting sunrises.
In the 13 months since his sudden and shocking diagnosis, Moore made videos for his girls and recorded himself reading their favorite books. But he wasn’t just inspiring his family, his story moved millions around the world. Soon a foundation came to life to support families with a terminally ill parent.
On the evening of March 5, surrounded at home by family and clutching his wife’s hand, he took a long and peaceful step from this life to the next. The following morning, with just a dozen hours to grieve and to the amazement of her neighbors, Joni Moore dressed her young daughters and went to find comfort at church.
“Paul was ready to go,” Joni Moore told me in an exclusive interview this week. “With the same quiet determination I've come to love, he made the decision to go on hospice just three days before his passing. He knew.”
For her, the final hours were a strange combination of heartbreak and peace. “We spent the afternoon gathered around Paul, exchanging stories and fond memories," she said. "I brought each daughter in separately to say their sweet goodbyes to Daddy. Shortly after that, his breathing pattern changed and we all knew his time on this Earth was coming to a close.”
Joni Moore described the last moment as a beautiful symphony. “We each said ‘I love you’ one more time, just seconds before Paul's final breath.”
As she comprehends all her tomorrows without her husband, Joni Moore confides to feeling much more than just a broken heart.
“I think it’s shattered," she said. "But I find comfort through prayer and by remembering that this trial was given to our family with a divine purpose. For me, peace is knowing that right now Paul is valiantly serving the Lord in that life without the pain of this life.”
When we discussed a few of the endless lessons learned, Joni Moore points first to God.
“My testimony has grown exponentially," she said. "I'm beyond grateful for the ultimate sacrifice the Savior made for me, for Paul, for all of us. It's impossible to describe the comfort I feel.”
As for her children, she already knows the grieving process will be a marathon. “The reality that Dad is gone is slowly sinking in, but they continually impress me with their faith and understanding that we will be together again,” she said.
Paul Moore’s mother, Blythe Berger, added that mother’s intuition and the spirit prepared her for his diagnosis and when it finally came, she also turned to the Sabbath day for comfort.
“I remember sitting alone in church and praying deeply for my son," Berger said. She described receiving an intimate prompting that our Heavenly Father loved her son — even more than she does. "I'll never forget the words I heard, as if someone were sitting right next to me.” She felt God telling her that he knows Paul and would what is expedient for him. She just needed to trust and put her heart at peace.
The message sustained Berger. “Of course, every day I begged our Father in Heaven to heal Paul, and never doubted that he could — if that was his will. But I always prayed with trust in him.”
As someone who was honored to know Paul Moore during the final year of his short life, I believe that few could have faced certain death with such patience and grace. A slow and wandering walk to the grave is one of mortality’s most difficult journeys. But he did it with a faithful smile and wearing the spiritual clothing of a disciple of Christ.
In his final interview, he said, “There’s a spirit out there that’s unbelievable right now that we can physically almost touch at times, and that’s been a blessing, as well. Despite the hardships, I just, I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is how it’s happening and I’m thankful for it.”
For me, the words come once again, but this time with a divine edit. Paul Moore is gone. But his spirit and faith? They couldn’t be more alive.
Jason F. Wright is a New York Times bestselling author, columnist and speaker. His newest book is “A Letter to Mary: The Savior's Loving Letter to His Mother” . Subscribe to his weekly columns.