Jason Wright: Inspiring father says final goodbye after terminal diagnosis

Last September I wrote these words in my weekly column: 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 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.

In addition to the Northern Virginia Daily, Moore’s family was profiled by People Magazine, Fox News and Britain’s Daily Mail. A foundation came to life to support families with a terminally ill parent. Friends launched a 5K race and silent auction and thousands of dollars were raised for the Moores and others.

Recently, Moore and his wife, Joni, were interviewed for a short film commemorating the 150-year anniversary of one of my publishers, Shadow Mountain. Those on set were forever changed by the Moores’ unwavering faith.

My wife Kodi and I had the opportunity to sit with the Moores in their quiet home and marvel at their wise eyes. With his mortal finish line in sight, Paul Moore’s faith in Jesus Christ remained the family’s rock.

Then, just two weeks after our visit, 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. “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. Paul Moore slipped into a coma in the middle of the day and Joni Moore rallied as many family members as possible.

“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. Later in the evening Paul received a beautiful blessing from brothers. 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 the savior.

“My testimony of the atonement 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, said in an interview 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 sacrament meeting and praying deeply for my son,” Berger said. She described receiving an undeniable prompting that Heavenly Father loved her son — even more than she did — and that she should would be granted peace if she would trust in him.

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 she said goodbye, she knew the words she’d heard were true. Christ loved and knew Paul, as he does each of us.

“Because of this trial, I know so much more about Heavenly Father’s very personal love and caring for a son I was privileged to share with him for a while,” she said. “I know he has that love and concern for each of us. And I trust 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.”

Sitting next to him and flooded with tears, Joni Moore smiled and added, “This is why I love him.”

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 best-selling author of 10 books, including “Christmas Jars,” “The Wednesday Letters” and “The 13th Day of Christmas.” He can be reached at feedback@jasonfwright.com orhttp://www.jasonfwright.com.