April Yurcevic Shepperd was transfixed by the sight of the old man standing guard over his wife’s casket.
As KTVU News anchor Frank Somerville shared on Facebook, Shepperd was so moved by the sight of Bobby Moore’s last vigil beside his wife of 60 years that she needed to capture it. “Today,” she wrote, “I witnessed a story of love”:
Not the type of love shared by young people who are half full of passion, topped off with hormones.
It was not the type of dewy love experienced by newlyweds who are enthralled with the idea of exclusive devotion and the happily ever after.
In such a world as ours, where vows are broken as quickly as the downing of a gavel, what I saw today was a rarity, a diamond exquisite in design.
Today I saw a man, a broken man, standing vigil over his most prized possession. Here was love personified.
Shepperd watched as Moore entered the room, unsteady in his steps but determined. His eyes were locked onto “the steel grey casket” that sat “under colored lights” at the front of the room.
The lid of the casket was partially opened, and the closed half paid tribute to a wife and mother with a mix of flowers and ribbons. She wrote:
Upon approaching and without pause, he leaned down and kissed her painted lips, his frail body trembling to keep upright. So gentle and soft came his words to her.
Surely these words were spoken innumerable times, but this time it was shrouded in finality.
“I know you can’t hear me,” he whispered. “But, I love you.”
And his tears fell.
Shepperd wrote that there was still an hour until the visitation was scheduled to start, but Moore was there early, not wanting to waste a moment of these last hours with his wife:
For over 60 years she had been by his side, but it still wasn’t enough. Not near enough. So, he pulled up a chair and they sat.
It was oddly familiar, as though she was watching the couple at home — except for the discordant surroundings:
A cane on his right side, his deceased wife on his left, he sat sidled up to the casket for nearly an hour. He rubbed her arms and patted her hands.
It was if he was comforting her, but the truth was, he was comforting himself.
It didn’t seem to bother him that her skin was cold, her body stiff and rigid; nor did it bother him that she didn’t respond to the words he whispered.
Moore stayed by his wife, and family and friends came in for the visitation. He told the mourners that his wife “looks good” and continued to hold her hand as people cried and offered condolences. Shepperd wrote:
For nearly five hours he stayed nearby, exhausted, spent, until his body demanded he retire and his mind pleaded for respite.
This man, this devoted man, had shown more grace in his time of grief than many do in times of plenty.
In awe at the display of fidelity and love she was watching, Shepperd couldn’t help but wonder what lays in store for Bobby when he returns home and looks at his wife’s empty chair. Perhaps, “today was the easy part.” Shepperd wrote:
How does one sleep alone after 59 years of lying next to your best friend?
I can’t imagine ever sleeping again.
Shepperd told Somerville that she never intended the photo or her story to be seen by others, but only wrote it “for my own healing,” and as a way to reflect on what she had seen. However, Moore’s family agreed to share the picture and her words in the hopes they would help others heal as well.
Shepperd, who works as a photojournalist, knows that the image of Moore beside his wife bears witness to something special. She wrote:
“As I watched Bobby with his wife, I knew I was privileged to share a moment that conveyed volumes of time.”