Caroline County man recovers from sickness to help others
June 1st, 2003
By Taft Coghill Jr.
The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg
The Rev. Ralph Moore could rarely trust anyone as an undercover narcotics officer in Danville.
Now, after surviving lymphoma and a recent heart ailment, trust and faith are what allow Moore to stand in the pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Goochland, where he is associate minister.
"I always attended church while growing up," Moore said. "But I never got a full understanding of the Bible until my illness."
Moore, 43, wrote his first sermon, "Come to Jesus," while taking chemotherapy. He preached his first sermon, "From the Pit to the Pulpit," last month.
It describes his journey from the pit of sickness and being diagnosed as having six months to live to becoming a licensed minister.
After graduating from Caroline High School in 1978, Moore attended St. Paul's College in Lawrenceville for two years. He then served in the Army for three years.
Moore fractured two vertebrae while playing for the Army basketball team, leading to four back surgeries.The first two were unsuccessful.
Moore returned to Bowling Green in 1983, where he worked as a barber at Clyde's Unisex on Main Street until 1990. Most of the people who knew Moore did not know of his passion for police work.
"That's something that was my dream since I was kid," Moore said."It's funny because a lot of people who knew me then still don't know that I was a cop."
Moore said he began associating with "cold-blooded killers" and drug dealers in 1991 when he started his undercover career with the Danville Police Department.
The arrest of Daniel Lamont Wilson in 1995 is one that Moore will never forget.
After Wilson was released on bond, Moore experienced his first brush with death as Wilson attempted to run over Moore with a van.
Moore went into uniform shortly before Wilson's trial for the attempted malicious wounding of Moore. An illness forced him to retire from the department in 1997.
Diagnosed with MS
Moore fell to the floor of his Danville home in January 1997. He remembers that before falling, he could not swallow or speak. Once he was on the floor, he could not get up.
Emergency-room workers originally thought he had a severe brain tumor that would require immediate surgery.
But, after reviewing his symptoms, doctors diagnosed Moore as having multiple sclerosis.
For eight months, Moore believed he had the disease.
He went through a long rehabilitation process at Sheltering Arms in Richmond. He had to learn how to eat again. Moore said he remembers crying about his health.
The mother of someone he arrested was Moore's nurse at the rehabilitation center. She held no grudges against him and became one of his biggest inspirations.
"This woman fed me and cried with me," Moore said. "That shows that if God is with you, nothing else matters."
A patient at the hospital also inspired Moore. He cannot remember her name, but he recalls a frail, elderly woman who would hold his hand at night and pray.
She told him that one day he would stand to tell his story of survival. But she also told him "it would get worse before it gets better."
The words of that elderly woman came true in August 1997. What was thought to be MS turned out to be lymphoma.
He began chemotherapy shortly after having surgery to remove the lymph node from his neck. Soon, Moore began to lose his hair and the chemo wore him down. He remembers telling his mother, "Momma, I'm so sick."
Marjorie Moore refused to let her only child give up. She told Ralph, "As long as you keep saying that, you will stay sick."
Moore recalls doctors telling him to give up the fight and let nature take its course.
After a tumor was found on his lung, doctors told him that the stem-cell surgery that he needed would kill him, but he couldn't live without surgery either. In 2000, he was given six months to live.
This prompted him to write his funeral service.
Ralph switched from taking big doses of chemo by mouth to taking it intravenously.
After his second intravenous chemo treatment, Moore's blood pressure dropped significantly and he couldn't breathe.
"There was nothing the family could do for him," Marjorie said. "We just prayed and left everything in the Lord's hands."
To the pulpit
Ralph read the Bible while taking chemo. Things he didn't understand about the Bible before were beginning to make sense, he said.
His cousin, the Rev. Bruce Claiborne, told him that he was having a Job-like experience.
After continuing to read, Ralph called Claiborne to declare that God called him to preach. Claiborne instructed him to read the books of Titus and Timothy and call him back. They confirmed what Ralph had already believed.
"Titus and Timothy is a rite-of-passage chapter," Moore said. "Timothy is told what is expected of him as a minister."
He was released from the hospital after being told that the cancer was in remission in 2001.
Ralph began honing his ability to preach at the Geriatric Ministry in Ashland last year. He then began his apprenticeship under Claiborne at Ebenezer.
"There wasn't an exact moment when God called on me," Ralph said. "I knew because my mind was going away from everything I used to run to and going to things I used to run from."
Moore started cutting hair again last week. He assists his friend Mark Monroe at the Better Cuts barber shop in Bowling Green. He still has health complications. Last year, he was rushed to the emergency room when he stopped breathing. It was later discovered that his heart was 60 percent blocked.
Through everything, Ralph's spirits remain high.
"I now know this is not about me," he said. "So many lives have been
touched by what has happened to me. I'm just a tool that God has used."
Copyright © 2003, The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co.