I will always treasure my time with Connie Moore as a gift. It felt so easy to be with this woman as we laughed and cried together. Our views on religion and politics were far apart but we found a place for friendship.
In 2004 Pete and I were thinking about buying a house in Alexander on Curtis Parker Road so we looked up online who owned property near the house. I found the number, called Connie Moore and asked her about the neighborhood. “People leave you alone, but if you need help they help you. It’s a good neighborhood,” she responded. On moving day Connie dropped in for a quick welcome as boxes and furniture crowded up our living room.
Over the years we saw each other off and on in the yard or on walks. Both she and her husband Andrew and my husband and I gardened so we occasionally gave each other surplus food from our gardens—yellow squash, lettuce, blueberries, strawberries, potatoes. Once they gave us potatoes baked on an open fire.
Three or four years ago I became aware of Connie’s health issues—on going diabetes and fibromyalgia for sure. But then they diagnosed progressive supranuclear palsy. It became harder and harder for Connie to balance as she walked. If I saw Connie in the yard on walks with my dog, I’d stop in to see her.
Connie and Andrew grew up in Haywood County and moved to Buncombe County for Andrew to work at Baldor, a machine shop near Weaverville. As Connie’s condition worsened, Andrew continued to work but called Connie every hour. Then he retired to take care of Connie full time. He did an amazing job at a difficult calling and one that he learned as he went. He told me God showed him how to take care of Connie. He said years before Connie was sick he never would have believed that he could do it. But with God’s guidance he managed to care for his wife with help. She was in good hands with assistance from Connie’s and Andrew’s sisters, Care Partners/Hospice and neighbors.
About a year and half ago I began sporadically visiting Connie who became homebound. I’d see her sitting in the garage while Andrew tended a fire in the yard. They asked me to come pick blueberries from their bush when it became too much to keep up with. I’d visit Connie then. I took my dog Casar to see Connie inside because she loved dogs. She and Andrew had taken care of a Casar once when we were on vacation. Connie had three dogs over the years that she loved talking about—Muffin, Sugar and Snappy. Connie took care of dogs overnight in her home when she was able.
Over a year ago I saw Andrew while walking my dog and asked if I could help. “Not yet, but maybe later.” He replied. Last April Andrew talked to Pete when he ran into Andrew walking one day. He said they could use some help—someone to read to Connie while Andrew ran errands. Some of the regular help were unable to come due to surgery and sickness in their families. So in April I began my Tuesday morning visits for an hour or so.
At some point the need was gone but I loved going so much, I kept it up unless I had a conflict. Pete encouraged me to go and helped me with my chores so I could go. Why? I got as much from Connie as I gave her. Her presence created a comfortable atmosphere. We read stories from Gross Creek in Kentucky, Christian Romances, Wendell Berry’s “A Place in Time” suggested by a writer friend and I shared my published article “Summers with Mamaw in Circleville.” Also, I read one of my favorites, “The Velveteen Rabbit” from my church work with the young children. Lastly we read a wonderful Reader’s Digest collection of stories about animals from therapy dogs to pet raccoons to elephants in Africa to connecting with deer to stray dogs finding a home.
What impressed me most about Connie was her calm acceptance of her situation. Here she possessed a life threatening illness and she persevered like a trooper. Being with Connie I felt free to cry if sadness hit me. Good release. We’d laugh at stories, too. But this could cause Connie to choke so I had mixed feelings about laughing but I could see the sparkle in her eyes.
Connie could not walk as the disease progressed and gradually she had trouble speaking. Mentally sharp but physically debilitated, her speech became less understandable. Some visits she’d turn bright red from not enough air and I’d hook up the oxygen to help her breath better. At times she used hand signals to let us know what she meant.
One of my last visits was a story about two dogs that died. I cried because I’d just put my 13 year old Casar to sleep. Connie clearly said, “Maybe it will get better.” I laughed. She laughed. What a good laugh we had. She said it to comfort me but it struck me as funny.
Every time I saw Connie when I read to her, I’d give her a hug and told her I loved her. She’d always managed to say I love you back.
A few days before she died Andrew called to let me know it was near the end. No more hour readings. So I went to thank Connie for all she gave me and give her one last hug and I love you.
Carol Ruth Dreiling
Photos Provided by Andrew Moore