I was a senior at Piedmont Bible College in January of 1978 when this tall, handsome student came walking across the parking lot on a Wednesday evening. We had a tradition at PBC on Wednesday evenings. The guys would wear suits and it was a night for asking a girl to dinner. Girls would sit in the windows watching to see who would walk over to Lee Hall, and if the guy didn’t usually accompany a girl to dinner then the tongues would fly as the girls tried to guess each new young man’s date.
On that night the new male student who walked into the sight of all those wondering girls was Gary Moore. And walking back across the parking lot with Gary was me! I would say lucky me, but I don’t believe in luck so in keeping with this being Bible college I’ll say that I was blessed! HaHa! But I was and I still am today, blessed to be walking with this wonderful man, Gary Moore.
My eye had been on Gary ever since I walked into the student center on our small North Carolina campus in January a year earlier and had instantly noticed this new second semester student. He fit several of my very serious future husband requirements. He was tall, and he was handsome. Very spiritual, huh?
It was also convenient that I was the student council secretary/treasurer and that I had access to the student mail boxes…in which I inserted special announcements…and in which I also took a look at Gary’s mail to see if he was getting letters from girls. Yes, I did that. And yes, he was getting such letters. So I gave up hope on ever attracting Gary’s attention. I decided that it would be friendship that we would share. But I sure did still notice him.
Things happened…I dated another guy during the fall of my senior year. And Gary kept going home to Bryson City on the weekends…to see girls, I thought, but he was actually helping out in his home church. He attended a mission’s retreat that Piedmont held at Groundhog Mountain that fall because I encouraged him to come. I didn’t know that he thought I was wanting him to come so I could spend time with him, so when I drove up with the other guy that I was starting to date, Gary nearly decided that he had already had enough of me.
My boyfriend and I broke up before Christmas. And just before I left to go home for the holidays, Gary came in the dining hall and gave me a Christmas stocking! Except he also gave one to my best friend Janet!! Now I was confused! But when I returned from Christmas break, Gary finally asked me to dinner on that Wednesday night…and all the girls sitting in the windows were surprised that it was me walking to dinner with Gary.
We never looked back from that point forward. Love was blossoming for both of us. But soon there was a big bump in the road. A huge bump for me, and could have been for us…except for the integrity of this man I was getting to know so well.
I noticed that something weird was going on with my neck. I couldn’t quite define it but things weren’t feeling right in there at all. Before long I noticed that my neck was wanting to pull uncontrollably to the right. I tried to hide it but eventually it became noticeable to everyone. And the pain became severe. My dear friend Janet talked to my parents, and I ended up going to different doctors in order to find out what was going on with my muscles. It was a challenge to finish my last semester of college, especially writing my senior thesis, with my neck pulling and the pain being so bad. Plus the drugs the doctors put me on were strong…things like valium and other calming drugs in an effort to quieten those muscle spasms.
Doctors didn’t have any idea about what was happening to me. Several blamed stress, so they put me on some pretty strong drugs for that. Nothing was helping at all. I walked around most of the time with my right hand raised up to my neck. Holding the back of my neck helped relieve the spasms a little. I hung on for as long as I could, finishing my course work and knowing that I could graduate. But the pain was so strong and the pulling so severe that just before I was to march in our graduation ceremonies I ended up in the hospital.
That was a tough time for me, but it was also a relief to be able to rest. It was so sad that I didn’t get to march with my class. I’ll never forget Dr. Drake, Piedmont’s president, coming to my hospital room along with Dean Reinert to present my diploma to me as I lay there in bed. I think that was a first for them!
Mom and Dad were there as well, worried about me and wondering what was wrong with their girl. And also there by my side was the man that had come to pick me up for dinner on that Wednesday night four months earlier. He wore a suit on my graduation day, much like the suit he had worn on our first date, except now he sat on the side of my bed and we both smiled broadly, just as if I was standing in that auditorium along with the rest of my graduating class to receive my degree.
On a fairly superficial level, my illness was exceptionally hard for me as a young woman. It changed my appearance, making me look weird as my neck pulled and as I held my right hand around my neck a large part of the time. I didn’t feel pretty at all. And pain took a huge toll as well. It’s hard to be your best or look your best when you’re absorbed in pain. So, on that level alone, I wondered if Gary would stick by me or if he would be turned off.
And what about the future? We didn’t even have a diagnosis and had no idea what the long term would hold for me, for my body and my health. What man would want to venture into that arena? Gary and I were not engaged. He wasn’t bound to me in any way like that. Yet there he was, faithful to me with his support and his love and his attention. He never made me feel weird or ugly or a risk too great to take.
I moved home to West Virginia to live with my parents, and tried to get well. Doctors still didn’t know what was wrong. Gary still wanted to be with me when he could travel from college to visit. He saw the pain and the awful reactions to drugs and the huge unknown, but he stayed by my side. And one day he even asked me to marry him!! I didn’t waste a second before saying yes. Time and rest helped me get better, but the effects of my illness were still somewhat visible, and I could definitely feel them.
We had a beautiful wedding, where I even sang a surprise song to Gary.
“God has given you to me, as my loving friend.
From beginnings love has grown, may its growing never end.
From beginnings love has grown, may it never end.
God is joining here today, families and friends.
Yours are mine and mine are yours, how the richness blends!
Yours are mine and mine are yours, how the richness blends!
You are handsome in my eyes, I treasure and adore.
But my heart determines this, I must love God more.
Though I love you oh so well, I must love God more.
I love you where you’re stongest, your strength can help me stand.
I love you where you’re weakest.
There I’ll care, I’ll help you there, and give your heart a helping hand.
God has given you to me, as my loving friend.
From beginnings love has grown, may it never end.”
So we began our life together. Today we celebrate 41 years of sharing this journey together and with God. We have three beautiful children, and a wonderful son-in-law. We have tons of memories. We have each other still.
Doctors know now that I have something called Dystonia. I will always feel the effects of this muscle disease in my neck, but I am so much better than I was back in 1978. Gary didn’t know this would be the outcome, though. Yet he loved me regardless, and he showed his strength and integrity when I needed it most. He’s still doing that today, and I am forever grateful.
42 years ago, I walked across that parking lot with that tall, handsome man. 41 years ago, I walked down the aisle to say, “I do.” And I am so thankful that I did!