Robert L. Moor, my Grandpa.
Sendai is windy tonight. I’ve heard about the Yamase winds that blow through Hokkaido and the Tohoku region in May through June, but this feels different. Not like Japan; more like Arizona, like my grandparent’s backyard in the desert at night. When everyone else went to bed, I went outside to look at the stars and forget school, relationships, myself. I could just think about how big the universe is and wonder about the God who made it. This weather is like permission to cry.
My dad sent me an email tonight to let me know that Grandpa died late last night. He’d been in the late stages of Alzheimers for probably ten years. Fit, strong willed, intelligent, funny. He could sing so beautifully and had a knack for remembering poetry. He liked watching musicals with my grandma, writing letters to his friends, and talking about the history of America. He researched the Civil War extensively and enjoyed touring battlefields on the East Coast. He was a Christian, had strong convictions, and really loved America. He grew up in Redondo Beach, CA. in a huge family of brothers. A conscientious objector, he served as a Merchant Mariner during the Korean War, where he saw a lot of terrible things that he didn’t share until later, when his mind lost the filter that hides that kind of sadness.
He lived with us when Grandma was sick and recovering. She had become very ill during their summer vacation, and somehow he drove her from the place they were camping a few hundred miles away to my Uncle’s doorstep where she collapsed; he was losing his memory at that point, so it’s not possible that he did that without divine intervention. We realized how far gone he was when he stayed with us; often he’d leave at 4:30 am when I was getting ready to go open Starbucks. He’d head out with his luggage to go hitchhiking to a nonexistant Marine base. Each time I sat down to breakfast with him in the early hours of the morning, I knew he would be Bob, but which one? He was so many ages over the course of a day.
The lucid times were scarce, but somehow, he knew I was an ally. Maybe some sister, or friend, or daughter, but he would let me in and share things with me; confide in me. One time, he was walking down the hall in my parent’s house and he looked so sad. I asked him what was wrong, and he told me, “I am having trouble remembering anything. I feel so confused all of the time. I don’t know what to do.” He looked so sad, like he felt like it was his fault that all this was happening. In all of that craziness: the hitchhiking, the weird, misplaced items, the fights, the complete absence of normalcy in our house since he’d moved in, my heart was completely wrecked in that moment with compassion for him. I grabbed his hand and said, “It’s okay to forget. You are okay. You can forget.”
I had no idea how he was going to react, but his eyes welled up with tears, and he smiled so big, and gave me a big hug. “Thank you. Thank you, I needed to hear that.” It was like he needed to give himself the permission. I think about how prevalent mental health problems are in the elderly, especially in America, and how hard it is for families to provide care and to be advocates for them. Grandma recovered from her illness long enough to be able to spend almost four more years with him, and her constant grounding kept Grandpa in some semblance of reality for as long as she was living. After she passed, he needed full time care that we could not provide in our home. My parents worked very hard to find a good care facility to meet his needs and when they did, they checked in on him nearly every week to visit him, check on his health, and make sure he was doing well, for years, right up to the very end.
I believe it is a true test of one’s character when one is faced with a situation that requires giving of oneself in that manner: when a loved one can no longer “fulfill their role” in the way that they once did in your life. Observing my parents care for Grandpa and be loving advocates for him really showed me the love of Christ at work in their lives; the fact that this challenging and painful time actually strenghtened their love for each other in their marriage has really been a blessing to me. Thank you for loving well, Mom & Dad.
Grandpa, I am in Japan right now. I’m sure you never would have anticipated that. I am glad that you are free, in eternity, at the feet of Jesus, and reunited with so many loved ones long since lost. I look forward to the day that I will see you restored and be fully restored myself, in glory. I will always love you.