My Beautiful Grandmother at Age 16
I’ve found myself missing my grandmother quite a bit these past few days. Maybe it’s because she loved fall, with the Harvest Moon Festival and the Halloween costumes. Or perhaps it’s because whenever things in my life seemed off, or got too crazy, or I just needed to feel. . .better, I would call her and just her voice was enough to cheer me up. There are so many things I could say about her, but I believe my uncle explained everything Grandmama beautifully in his eulogy:
My mother, whose core virtues were respect for others and courtesy, would not let me speak this morning without pushing this conversation about her aside and, typically, focusing first on you and thanking you. A social thoroughbred, my mother would insist on this thank you note: thank you so very much from our family to all of you and your families for all of your kindnesses to us over these trying weeks. We are all so deeply moved, yet exhilarated and lifted, by so much pure unrestrained good will. And you know — pure, unrestrained goodwill animated everything in my mother’s character.
I have thought about why she was so loved by so many – even by strangers she might speak with only once. A soldier wrote of her, “Each time we crossed paths, she made me feel as though she had just been waiting for that moment. She made those moments special for anyone.” So I came to this answer. She was simply always delighted with people — everyone. She would meet you for the first time, her blue eyes would do this wonderful sparkle thing, looking at you – we’ve all seen it — and she had touched the one really good part about you. And that gave us confidence, and took away the fear that we didn’t really matter much. We mattered most to her, right then. It was always remarkable, after ten minutes enveloped by my mother, how fascinating you are to yourself.
But then, it was always the plain, the afflicted, the scared and the wallflower that she put under her caring art and made confident.
Last week she received a note from an old friend:
“I just want to drop by and hold your hand for a while. I want to give you comfort, peace and strength, but strangely, it is you giving those to me. Perhaps that is because you have been my example since I was a young mother and Lieutenant’s wife of 23. As I remember, I was so scared to go to your house. I wanted to be sure to wear the right thing and say the right thing. And then you met me at the door of your home where the battalion wives were gathering. All my fears melted away in an instant. I have never known a more gracious, warmer, more loving person than you.”
Why was this so profound? Where did this come from? It came from being a thoroughbred. It is what her father, our grandfather, Colonel Compton, told her that all Comptons were bred to be – Comptons were born thoroughbreds: pure class: indomitable, tireless, composed, and vibrant with God’s gifts of grace, beauty and dignity. Her gracefulness ensured that she could never turn away when she sensed others suffering. In this compassion, in this, was the breath of God. It fell closely on so many.
A young friend wrote her:
“ You have taught me how I want to live my life. How I want to affect people. How I want to support them. How I want to be in love with my husband. How I want to spread a love for life. I strive to be strong like you. To smile with as much love as you do. To make people feel welcome like you do. To reach out and offer a bit of sunshine to everyone in my path like you do.”
Last week we were in Houston , where she was being treated. The doctor comes to the room – a young woman, very skilled – and after the “how are yous?” and chat, my mother asked how much time she had left. The doctor, stressed, said two weeks – maybe. Mom paused, raised her eyebrow, and said, “well, enough about me . . . so, just how did you get into cancer medicine?” She had sensed a shadow of discomfort, could not bear it, and moved instantly to help.
Actually, putting aside all this profundity, my mother loved to play. She had a taste for adventure – found mostly in new people, not new places. She delighted in tea parties with her granddaughters, baby-talking like a 6 year old, balancing on a tiny chair, displaying the queen’s manners with doll china. She loved mountain air and flowers with color, properly watered, many with little furry leaves. She enjoyed being a mom and did that work well. One of my brothers told me, “I don’t remember doing specific things with my mom alone but I think the endless hours spent getting us all to places has to be noted. Without that, many activities would not have happened. ”
And this is what we leave to our children. Granddaughter Catherine, age 9, wrote yesterday:
“I loved you without any exceptions. I remember when we together would make our tablecloths and what I miss already about you is your smile and your love and your laughter. I loved how we would snuggle up together and watch a movie. I miss the way you would make the day fun for us all and how you loved every one of us every second we lived. ”
She never understood – or could ever acknowledge – the sum of this startling, jaw-dropping impact she could have. When the movie was released in 2002, she was asked to provide her biography to an admirer. You can imagine the inflated resume this person expected to receive in response. Yet this is what she wrote and this is how she saw her life.
May 3, 2002
Dear Mr. Vinh,
I am enclosing a biography for General Moore and a picture of the two of us taken at the premiere of “We Were Soldiers” in Los Angeles .
I do not do any “public speaking” so have never had a need for a biography. My father was an Army Officer in the Field Artillery so like all “Army Brats” I moved quite a bit. I met then 1 st Lt. Hal Moore at Fort Bragg , N.C. when he was stationed with the 82 nd Airborne Division and my father commanded the Army Field Forces Board. I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill until our marriage in November 1949.
We have 5 children, 3 boys and 2 girls and 11 grandchildren. I counted up the other day and we lived in 28 different houses in 32 years of marriage. Were fortunate enough to have two overseas tours as a family, one in Norway and one in Korea .
I was a stay-at-home Mom, volunteering with the Red Cross and Army Community Service. My main love and focus has always been the Army family and especially our Child Care Centers.
Not very exciting when I write it down but I have loved every minute (well maybe not every minute, like when the dog throws up on your carpet just as the doorbell rings with the General arriving for dinner, or a child falls out of the tree and breaks his arm minutes before you are due at a reception in your honor, or the movers lose all the trousers to your husbands uniforms etc. etc.) and wouldn’t trade with the wife of any other profession.
Sincerely, Julie Moore
I have this vision that when Saint Peter greeted her at the gates of Heaven, he heaved a huge sigh of relief, extended to her his keys, and said “Miss Julie, you do this meeting and greeting much better than me. Now take over.”
By: H. Gregory Moore (son) April 22, 2004 St. Michael’s Catholic Church Auburn , Alabama