By Adam Moore
I feel like one of the most common complaints to hear is someone complaining about their job – the hours, the boss, the pay. But sometimes a job becomes a little bit more than a job. Every so often a job comes along that can really change the way you think about life and inspire you to pursue your passions.
If you haven't guessed by now, I really love my job. My job is actually the reason I ride for memories.
I've spent almost three years working at the Forum at Brookside, a retirement community in Louisville. I started in high school and continue to this day when I'm home over breaks. I'm pretty sure no one understands why I love my job so much, and trust me, there have been days when it's driven me crazy, too.
But while I wouldn't say I'm exactly passionate about working as a waiter, I have become so passionate about the relationships I have formed with many of the residents at The Forum. Unfortunately, I’ve watched a few of the folks I'm especially close with at work struggle with the devastating effects of Alzheimer's. While I wrote about one such case in my bio for the site, today I’ll focus on the McNeely’s.
Gerald and June McNeely have long been the king and queen of The Forum. Before I even began working there, I was told by coworkers and bosses alike that they would quickly become two of my favorite residents. And they were absolutely right. The McNeely’s called us their children. They kept a styrofoam bowl with all of the servers names on it just so they could remember us all.
They lived in Spain as missionaries for years, and I had the honor of signing their guest book which had entries dating back to the 1950’s. June wrote and published a book a couple years back at 95 years old. Occasionally, she would be late to dinner because she had a hair appointment. At our “Forum Graduation” my senior year of high school, Gerald showed up with the oldest disposable camera I've ever seen and snapped some pictures.
But one day over this past winter break my boss told me the McNeely’s would be moving out any day. Gerald’s health had been drastically declining due to Alzheimer's. So that evening after my shift I went to see them. I met their children who were helping them move and was able to sit down and talk with them for half an hour. When I was ready to go I told them I'd miss seeing them at work, and Gerald prayed for me, just like he did every time I left their humble home. It's crushing to me to imagine that such a kind man may soon lose that ability to stand and pray, or his memory of me, or even his memory of his sweet wife. Gerald and June have made even more of an impact on my life than I ever could have imagined, and I pray every day for God to watch over them and allow his memories to remain intact.
Memories are a beautiful gift in life, and the memories I have made at The Forum will certainly stay with me throughout my entire life. This summer I ride for Gerald and June McNeely, for their memories of their 70 years together, and to find a cure for the terrible disease that steals these memories.
Author’s Note: After the original writing of this post, Gerald McNeely passed away at the age of 92 on March 12. I ask that you keep June and their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, as well as all who knew and loved Gerald, in your thoughts and prayers, and if you’d like to learn more about his incredible life, you can view his obituary here.