Emily Farmer and McEwan Mac Voorhees dont have much in common.
Voorhees turns 100 on Thursday, Oct. 27. Farmer just turned 25.
Farmer is a magician at the piano. Voorhees prefers his beloved harmonica.
Voorhees saves his days at Heritage Place Senior Living in Bountiful, Utah. Farmer freely spends hers jogging right past it on her daily workouts or sprinting to work as a supervisor at Deseret Book in City Creek Center.
Farmer credits her energetic friend for always brightening her mood. “He’s taught me just how important service is. When you’re confused, stressed or down, it lifts us. I think the best friendships are forged through service.”
Despite their differences, these two share a special friendship that offers lessons in how to live a joyful, service-filled life.
And it all began with an unexpected pitstop.
One morning on a long run through Bountiful, Farmer noticed Heritage Place and felt inspired to stop and ask if theyd like her to play their piano sometime. The staff said yes, of course, and Farmer saw no reason to wait. Still in her running clothes, she sat at the piano and began to play.
Voorhees, already in the room, introduced himself with a playful question. So, when does the show start?
Farmer laughed and their unique relationship was born. We were instant friends, Farmer told me during a recent Skype interview. Voorhees, sitting next to her, smiled at me through the camera, We sure were.
Since that first meeting nearly 18 months ago, Farmer has returned to visit Voorhees and play for the other residents at least once a week. While she plays, Voorhees sings along and often accompanies her on his harmonica.
Ive never seen such a lively young lady, Voorhees said. And how she can play that piano! Its not just me anymore shes got people gathered all around when she visits.
Farmer returned the praise faster than she can play a 16th note. But he has those nimble fingers. He gets off his walker and dances and plays that harmonica. Hes so good!
When we discussed his favorite tunes Let Me Call You Sweetheart and You Are My Sunshine Voorhees revealed they were among the songs he sang to his late wife, Helen.
I knew none of these songs before meeting Mac, Farmer said. And now I just love listening to him sing them.
In addition to their jam sessions, they sometimes dance, talk about their faith and go for walks. Farmer has even taken her pal golfing at Lakeside in West Bountiful.
Whenever theyre together, Voorhees is quick to offer his single friend dating advice. Farmer will often talk about someone shes met and report on the good dates, bad dates and everything in between.
Once when Farmer boldly told Voorhees he couldnt pass away until shed met her spouse and brought him by for introductions, her friend blurted, Youre not shopping very good. You better hurry up!”
Voorhees, who has three children, nine grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren, truly treats Farmer like family. I am so blessed. Emily has given me a new lease on life. I try to help her cheer people up because we all fight the sorrow. But when youre almost 100 years old, what else can you do but be happy?
Farmer is happy, too, and she credits her energetic friend for always brightening her mood. Hes taught me just how important service is. When youre confused, stressed or down, it lifts us. I think the best friendships are forged through service.
Farmer is equally grateful for Voorhees children. They take amazing care of him and theyve become like family to me, too. People always think hes my grandpa. Im OK with that.
Recognizing her dear friend wont be alive for another 100 years, Farmer records what she calls his Mac-isms in a special journal. Among her favorites?
The secret to staying alive to 100 is just keep eating, breathing and moving so they don’t cover me up with dirt.
When Farmer asked how he wanted to celebrate his big birthday, he didnt hesitate to request a dance party with his fellow residents.
No doubt itll be a party to remember. But neither Emily nor Mac will ever forget that their unlikely friendship started with an unexpected pitstop.
Good for them. And, just maybe, good for us, too.
Jason F. Wright is a New York Times bestselling author, columnist and speaker. His newest book A Letter to Mary: The Savior’s Loving Letter to His Mother is now available for preorder on Amazon. Subscribe to his weekly columns, join him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.