By Mary Tobia
How would you feel if visiting you for the first time was on someone's Bucket List?
A very close friend of ours from South Dakota was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 19 months ago.
It was touch and go for the first few weeks and after a serious Whipple procedure the doctors at the Mayo Clinic were able to stabilize Tommy enough to start cancer treatments.
It has been an uphill battle. There was a trip to a clinic in Texas only to find out his cancer was not a type for experimental drugs. He suffered through months of chemo that left him feeling ill for six days and well for one. The treatments left him weak and with no appetite causing him to lose over half of his normal body weight.
After a recent trip from one of his many checkups he found that the cancer is in the blood stream and is overtaking his liver.
After hearing this bleak news Tommy told his wife, Rita, it was time to do his Bucket List. This means making a list of all the things you would like to do before you die and start doing them.
Tommy got permission from his doctor to travel and to stop taking his 52 pills a day, keeping only his potassium pill and a pain patch.
Leaving their large ranch (3000 acres of farmland, 1500 acres of pasture where 550 beef cattle call home) was no problem.
His three sons now put into action the years of experience they learned from farming side by side with their dad.
Longtime friends of Tom and Rita, and our special cousin Don and wife, Doris, were accompanying them to Palmerton.
As soon as I heard the plans were definite I started my "what if" list.
What if their rooms would not be comfortable? What if I don't get the house cleaned? What if they don't like my cooking? But the most important was, what if Tommy's health took a turn for the worse while they were here?
The flight and car ride to Palmerton went well but as we sat down to eat, the vicious nausea that plagued Tommy took hold and he was not able to join us.
We all went to bed that evening downhearted and only fearing the worse.
But the next morning dawned bright and sunny. Tom's nausea was gone and his appetite back.
We spent the next four days showing them our beautiful Pennsylvania surroundings. We had lunch at Penn's Peak, visited Jim Thorpe and took the train ride and attended the Palmerton Community Festival. We spent lots of time reminiscing, laughing and relaxing.
Tommy's health stayed good and he was able to enjoy every minute.
The time went too quickly.
We may have showed Tommy the sights, but he showed us how to live each day to the fullest, to see the beauty in everyday life and to feel the love that is shared with close relatives and friends.
Saying good-bye was not easy. As we stood one last time together in our living room we all held hands and repeated the Lord's Prayer together. I have never felt the presence of the Holy Spirit as strongly as I did that morning.
Our guests drove to Washington DC, spent the evening sightseeing our Capital and then caught their flight back home the next morning.
They flew from DC to Newark and then onto the mid-west.
As the plane left Newark and circled around to head west, Don tapped Tommy on the shoulder and said "Hey, look out your window she's waving at you."
There in her full glory with the sun beaming off of her crown stood the Statue of Liberty.
The Statue was one of the sights Tommy had always wanted to see and that day by the unexpected turn of the plane, he got his wish.
They are now back home and the decision was made last week that there will be no more medicine intervention with the cancer. They are letting it all up to God now.
We were honored to be on Tommy's Bucket List and we pray for him and his family daily.
I am always reminded of this phase, "every day is an opportunity for a miracle."