This Life with Gracie: Nothing could stop this Dunwoody girl

The past three years have been a blur, but suffice it to say Emily and Kurt Moore essentially grew up together.

They met during their freshman year at the University of Alabama and except for one summer when she was back here working at camp and he was back home in New Orleans doing the same thing, the two rarely ever parted ways.

In short order, they were like an old married couple — committed for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death.

Your guess is as good as mine why she’d be attracted to a guy who slept through English class, would’ve failed had she not had the heart to coach him to a perfect score on the final exam, but there was just something about him.

Kurt Moore made her laugh. Plus, they had a lot in common. Both hailed from strong Jewish families. Both spent their summers volunteering at camps that had given so much to them. Both had grandparents on either side of the family tree who were Holocaust survivors.

One night she invited him to join her and a few friends for her 19th birthday celebration. By the end of the night, Emily was starting to feel some kind of way, and after dropping Kurt off at the Zeta Beta Tau house, she reached out, crank calling him.

“Finally, I told her to come pick me up,” Kurt remembered recently. “That’s when the sparks started to fly.”

Emily visited Kurt that summer in New Orleans for a brief few days, but they mostly stayed in touch via phone until the new school year began. By the second semester of their sophomore year, they were officially a couple.

Graduation day came quickly. In May 2003, Emily earned a degree in public relations. Kurt followed with a marketing degree that August and moved into her parents’ basement.

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He gave himself a month to find a job. By September 2003, he was a working man, living with a high school friend of Emily’s.

The new year came and, well, he and Emily couldn’t wait to move in together. Neither of their parents nor grandparents were exactly happy about that arrangement, but the way they figured it, they could save a boatload of money. They were basically living together anyway.

Not completely oblivious to their elders’ traditional ways, they opted for a two-bedroom apartment before going all in and purchasing a home in December 2005.

By then, they were engaged, and on March 4, 2006, the couple tied the knot at the JW Marriott in Buckhead before more than 250 friends and family members.

Emily chose that date because it’s the only one that made a sentence: “March forth.”

Surely Kurt could remember that.

It was just like Emily to be thinking about how to make life easier for those whom she loved. In many ways, it betrayed the very things Kurt disliked most about her — she was regimented and organized and very clean. But she was kind and warm, too, with a sense of humor that matched Kurt’s.

They’d need both to endure what lurked in the distance.

For most of her life, Emily lived with chronic ulcerative colitis, a disease of the large intestine in which the lining of the colon becomes inflamed.

But she never allowed it to get in the way of her living her life to the fullest. Four to five times a week, she was at the gym. And even though the colitis demanded she make frequent bathroom visits, she rarely missed work or the opportunity to hang out with friends and family.

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It wasn’t easy but it forced her to appreciate life in a way most people her age didn’t. There’s little doubt it helped that she and Kurt were living their dreams. They were both working with decent salaries and a house they loved in Dunwoody.

And, oh, they had the most adorable labradoodle ever — Bear Bryant Moore, a trial run for a real baby.

Even though doctors said it would be difficult for Emily to get pregnant, the trial run lasted only a little more than two years. On July 26, 2008, their daughter, Hallie, was born.

Death visited like it always does, claiming Emily’s Uncle Victor and then her grandfather  Gerald.

And then on June 22, 2011, another birth — a son, Jordan Zev. They bought a second home in the Deerfield East II subdivision that same year, and months later, Bear Bryant passed away. He was just 6, but kidney cancer didn’t care.

Still, life was good and they knew it.

The kids were growing up. Emily was enjoying her new life as a full-time mom, and it looked good on her. Where other new moms struggled, Emily was a natural, a role model, in her friends’ and family’s eyes, of the “perfect mom,” ideal wife, daughter, sister.

Not even colitis could keep her from volunteering at her children’s school or sitting on the sidelines of their soccer games or gymnastic competitions.

“There were no sacrifices that she would not make for her children,” her mom, Loli Gross, said.

Or the rest of her clan. It wasn’t unusual for her to show up at the hospital to welcome her friends’ children into the world. If one was having difficulty getting their infant to sleep, instead of talking them through some routine over the phone, Emily would go to their homes to help. And she always, always hosted the neighborhood Halloween party. No matter what.

Still something wasn’t quite right. Visits to the hospital emergency room were becoming more frequent, but doctors struggled to put a name to what was happening inside of Emily.

“We just thought it was her colitis,” Kurt said.

It wasn’t.

Come back Thursday, and I’ll tell you what happened next.

Find Gracie on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at

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