The story of how this book came into being
I never met Parker Moore. I never covered his football or track and field teams. I joined the Woodinville Weekly in 2013, just as he was graduating from Woodinville High School.
I was not familiar with him until November 16, 2014. That's when emails from readers alerted me that a popular kid from the Falcon football team had been killed in Oregon.
I wrote an article covering the murder. A year later, I interviewed Parker's parents, Doug and Julee, and wrote a one-year retrospective. Beyond those two articles, I never gave any thoughts to writing a book.
ELEVEN MONTHS LATER, I sat with my sister Jennifer as she lay on her death bed. Cancer was claiming her at the age of 41. It was excruciating to watch her waste away.
By that point, I had written five books on football -- mostly about the Washington Huskies. For various reasons, UW football had lost its appeal. I knew that I would never write another book about them.
But I had no idea what else to write about. I figured I had more contributions to make, but the topic needed to be compelling. I wasn't going to write a book just for the sake of writing a book.
As I sat looking upon my emaciated sister in her final hours, I wiped tears from my face, then leaned forward and said: “I don't know if I will ever write another book or not. But if I do, I will dedicate it to you."
Jennifer smiled weakly, and slowly raised an arm to give a thumbs up.
She died on October 8, 2015.
SEVERAL MONTHS PASSED before thoughts of a book on Parker began popping up in my mind. They started as wisps of thought. “Hmmm, that might be interesting.” Then one day in June 2016, I attended a Woodinville football practice when assistant coach Ronald Jones walked in front of me. He wore a dark t-shirt emblazoned with a Parker Moore quote on the back. "The only thing left to do is to do it." I began mulling over the idea.
By the fall of 2016, thoughts about Parker Moore were growing louder in my mind. It was sometime around Christmas that I started to really give it serious consideration.
By March of 2017, the idea clamored in my mind daily. Finally, I emailed Doug and Julee. I told them I wanted to write a book about their son. I pledged that after the book broke even financially, I would make a respectable donation to the Parker Moore Memorial Scholarship Fund. Doug and Julee said they were “blown away” but wanted to talk amongst themselves and get back to me.
A couple weeks later, Doug and Julee announced that they were on board. But their daughter Hayley was a different matter -- she was ambivalent. Even before Parker's death, the Moore family had gone through difficult times. Hayley wasn't thrilled about airing those details publicly. She also had heard and read many one-dimensional tributes about her brother that didn't ring fully true. She was concerned of an inauthentic portrayal being published.
But after several more weeks, she gave the green light. She still felt ambivalent, but her parents [especially her mom] wanted this story to be told and she didn't wish to stand in the way.
So began my two-year journey. I conducted sixty-one interviews and exchanged hundreds of emails and texts with the Moores. As time went on, I became aware of the bottomless chasm of grief felt by this family -- especially Julee.
I went far deeper into this than I ever imagined. As the project progressed, I felt immense pressure and even anxiety, which surprised me. Many sleepless nights with me staring at the ceiling in thought. I even had multiple dreams where I talked with Parker. The most vivid was where he and I were walking in downtown Seattle on a sunny day. We stood on a corner and saw some girls across the street. I shouted “Hey, do you girls know Parker?” They shouted back “Yes we do!”
Parker turned to me and said: “I enjoy your articles in the Woodinville Weekly.” I said thanks but felt confused. Then he smiled and said, “I know this book you’re working on is going to be a good one.”
I turned away for a moment and thought “This guy is dead! How does he know what I’m doing? I need to politely ask him how he knows.”
But when I turned back to him, he’d vanished.
The dream ended with me walking a couple blocks up a hill and then sitting down. Below me and to my left were hundreds of people walking hurriedly along city streets. Below me and to my right was an office building in the early stages of construction. Just the framework. Dozens of workers climbed all over it like ants. I broke down and started sobbing while still dreaming. Then I awoke and found myself crying in real life. I reached for my night stand to grab my phone and I emailed Julee with a description of what just happened.
Did I really speak with Parker? Or was this my psyche expressing the weariness and pressure it felt? I have a history of imaginative dreams, so it was probably just a crazy dream. Either way, it left a mark.
By the spring of 2019, I finished writing the book. People close to me said I must be thrilled. But I didn’t feel thrilled. It was more like I'd gone through a ringer. I felt like I had gotten to know Parker very well. His twenty years on earth were well-lived. I was saddened by the immensity of his loss. Parker was destined to do great and powerful things in this world, and it was all stolen in a moment of horrific violence.
LIKE IS SAID, I NEVER MET PARKER. The closest I came was in September 2014. This was two months before his murder. I traveled to Vancouver, Washington to cover the Woodinville-Skyview football game. Parker was playing football for Linfield College at that point. But his Wildcats had a road game that weekend and Parker wasn't on the traveling team. Instead he drove to Corvallis to pick up his friend Caleb Hamilton, and then the two of them headed north for Vancouver to see their former high school team play a football game.
I knew Caleb from covering the end of his senior season for the Woodinville baseball team. So there I was in Vancouver, standing on the sideline with the Woodinville team right before kickoff. I turned and looked into the visitor's grandstand. At the top row I saw Caleb, and I shouted and waved. He waved back. Seated next to him was a guy with a shock of blond hair and a wide smile. As Caleb told me a couple years later, Parker asked who I was. Caleb told him, "that's Derek, the new sportswriter for the Woodinville Weekly."
Parker nodded and then returned his gaze toward me.
For a brief moment, we looked at each other and smiled.