Alan Moorehead
Sunday June 01st 2014, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

A wistful, I didn’t get to show him my grandsons.

So many old memories today after getting the note from my mom that Alan Moorehead, my old Sunday School teacher, had died this past week. All I could think in the first stunned moment was, but I didn’t get to say goodbye!

And then the memories started flooding in.

The group of teenage boys my age who had been so defiantly obnoxious that two teachers (and we’re all volunteers in the Mormon Church) had quit in three weeks–they didn’t have to put up with this.

Alan said, surely with a grin, Lemme at’em.

He totally turned that group around.

He told us his first memory was of being taken to a house of strangers and watching, glued to the window and sobbing inconsolably, as his mother drove away: he was three years old and in his world suddenly bereft and alone and stunned while she hoped she could get back on her feet for him. Foster care.

He had a rough teenagerhood.

He joined the Mormon Church as an adult.

He married Kathleen and raised a family with love and appreciation for his fine blessings and taught us all just exactly how important that was. He still marveled at her for choosing him and putting up with him. He said, frequently, “If the Lord didn’t want His children spoiled He wouldn’t have given me any.” They had five little ones. I used to swing toddler and then preschooler Katie around and around till “We all fall DOWN!” I don’t know if she remembers, but I do; their kids weren’t spoiled, they were a joy and it’s hard to put yourself down when a small child squeals with delight on seeing you.

And he understood why some young men would swagger and treat themselves and others cynically and he helped them see their future selves beyond that false front. He was his own Exhibit A.

I remember a particular Sunday, standing in the doorway talking to him after class was over, the others dispersed and I almost was, when he thought I needed a moment (and I desperately did, close to tears for reasons I do not remember.) What I thought were my failings he told me, No, those are your strengths: “Yes, you’re emotional. You wear your heart on your sleeve” (that was  the first time I’d heard that phrase, and with the literal thinking of the young I mentally imaged a little pink cartoon of a heart dancing to the beat at the end of my wrist and tried to parse just what he meant so I wouldn’t miss a thing.) But he told me it was a power for good that I was capable of blessing others with and he made it sound like not everybody else was so lucky to be that way. God would be able to use me well because of it, he encouraged me.

That unshakeable belief in each of us–in me personally–from someone who wasn’t my parent and didn’t have to spend the time of day worrying nor caring but simply chose to because that’s who he was–made all the difference.

We were supposed to get a new teacher with the new year after that, but he asked permission, got it, and stayed with us. And the next year too, till we graduated from high school. They asked him to do other callings and he said, Only if I can keep my kids. Meaning us.

He told us how important it was to keep a journal, and as a history buff and particularly a Civil War history buff he said it was the journals that brought people to life and gave perspective to their times when we in our own day are in utterly different surroundings. Our grandkids (and yes there would be grandkids, believe it, think ahead) would want to know who we are now at each stage as they themselves went through them, too. We all do. It’s just the circumstances around us that change from generation to generation. Write.

And he challenged us to bring him blank paper for him to make into journals for us to do that writing in. He asked us several Sundays in a row, with a deadline. How much? He wouldn’t give us a number, it was up to us.

Three of us did. (I remember asking my folks quick at the last minute for some printing paper–for the mimeograph?–out of the basement, almost forgot, phew.) Quite a few didn’t.

It wasn’t till some time later that I found out what he’d done: he’d handed the pages we’d given him to his kids to doodle on and he and Kathleen had packed everybody in the car and had driven to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia–we’re talking two and a half hours each way with small children!– where they bought acid-free, archival-quality paper and paid for the bookbinding process on their antique press and made the three of us beautiful journals at a time when you could not buy one of such materials. He wanted to teach us how important it was that these things last–and he took the three of us out to dinner to thank us for living up to what he’d hoped we would do.

He accepted no payment on any of that.

Writing this, I realize that by going to such great effort without telling us just how great a gift he was going to create he was also teaching the others in the most benign way that if they passed up a chance to do something good because they didn’t see the need for it or didn’t get around to it the moment would be gone forever. And it could never be quite the same.

I filled that journal. I looked for acid-free paper when I went to start the next one. And eventually…mindful of all that he taught me, I started writing here.

Just about every day. So that my grandchildren and theirs would know who I was. Brother Moorehead taught me this.

Till we meet again, dear friend. I owe you so much. Thank you.

5 Comments so far
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My memories are different – I was never in his class (in more ways than one, I guess). And these memories of yours probably happened after I had left for college and a mission. I loved hearing stories of the Revolutionary War from him. I did love the man, and appreciated that he always loved all of us. Thank you for sharing these memories.

Comment by morgan 06.02.14 @ 5:18 am

And with you sharing these memories, you are both changing lives again.

I’ve asked you many times about bloging tips and every time you answer “if you want to write, write”. I now have a purpose to write, if that makes any sense. Though I am not sure about the format, write I will.

Sending a prayer for him and all those who care for him.

Comment by Suzanne from Montreal 06.02.14 @ 6:09 pm

Beautiful tribute to a wonderful teacher. A prayer for him, and for those who inspired my writing too.

Comment by Channon 06.02.14 @ 7:44 pm

Alison, what a beautiful tribute to my sweetheart. I do remember the many kindness you extended to my children…and I remember the piece of crocheting you gave to me.I did not know that you “blogged”; I will be a frequent visitor….You may never know what a “gift” this is to me personally this very morning as I’m trying to move on with my own fond memories, words like yours from others, and strength from ABOVE..Bless you…

Comment by Kathleen 06.16.14 @ 8:26 am

Alison, thank you so much for the beautiful tribute to good old Bro. Moorehead. I was one of those obnoxious teenage boys, and remember very well his first Sunday with us. He loved us, we loved him, and he helped us all through those teenage years and far beyond.

Comment by Paul 06.19.14 @ 6:16 am

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