How this card left a mark on my 2022!
After recovering from my failed liver transplant in the fall of 2021 and realizing that my prognosis was possibly much shorter than what I hoped, I had to decide what to do with 2022. Not knowing what 2022 would look like entirely and whether I would be here at the end allowed me to focus on 2-3 months at a time, basically CT scan to CT scan. It truly is a unique and odd way to live and to plan your life, but it also has its blessing as well–the blessing of spontaneity.
One of the moments and blessings of 2022 and spontaneity was the “America the Beautiful Card” produced by the National Park System as an annual pass for an individual; it also allows all in the same vehicle with that person (friends or family) to get in for free.
In December 2021, while taking a walk on the property of one of my best friends, Mike Hourigan, I threw out the idea about traveling with me to see some national parks early in 2022. He seemed to love the idea, and it was only a short distance further on our walk when we said, almost in unison, what about inviting Joel and Curt too. So the four of us planned a trip for January 2022 to see the southwestern national parks including Sedona, Grand Canyon, Page (Horseshoe Bend & Antelope Canyon), Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the Red Rocks west of Las Vegas. It was a trip of a lifetime, but it turned out to be the first of three trips of a lifetime for me in 2022.
While on this trip, we challenged and encouraged one another. One of the ways these three men encouraged and challenged me was to begin to investigate the opportunity for disability/retirement. As two of them were already retired and the third on his way, they were the perfect group to help lead me in that plan. Although me moving to PA was not exactly part of the plan.
This first trip truly was special but left me wanting to see and experience more with those that I love.
Now my wonderful wife and children were very patient with me in planning, prepping, and enjoying the January trip without them, but made it very clear – I could travel with my friends, as long as I took them out west in the summer! The summer was still six months away and while it sounds strange, it is very hard for someone with a terminal diagnosis to plan long term, and six months is considered long term. However, when spring came with a stable CT scan in April, I knew that the Lord opened an opportunity that our family had been planning for many years. For a month, our family traveled from PA all the way to Montana to Arizona and back. This Facebook post sums up the trip perfectly (check out some of those stats).
Then finally came planning the third trip. Curt, Mike, Joel and I began planning it in June when I still lived in Maryland, which was much farther in advance than our other trips. While fellowshipping over our Jimmy John subs, which is the staple diet for our lunches, we discussed lots of options for this fall trip. At first, we leaned heavily on staying on the East Coast, however, we decided that traveling out west would make for another epic trip. This time it was to California, to see its beautiful national parks and grandeur. From October 22 through October 31, the four of us traveled in a circle from San Francisco to Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite NP, Sequoia NP, scenic Highway 1, Carmel-By-The-Sea, and back to San Francisco. It was another trip of a lifetime with three of my best friends in the world.
To sum the impact of this card up, these two thoughts come to mind:
First, I got my money’s worth with this card. It cost $80 in January, but in 2022, I easily visited more than 40 national parks or monuments that on average cost $35 per vehicle, which would have been about $1400 in fees or more. I recommend getting the America the Beautiful card! Purchase yours here!
Second, 2022 could have been a year of depression, discouragement, and waiting for the inevitable. Instead, I am so thankful for this little plastic card, for three faithful and fun friends, and one perfect and adventurous family. This card brought me the best thing about 2022, memories and perspective! Memories for me and those closest to me to cherish for months, years, and decades to come, likely in my absence, and perspective because it would have been so easy for me to wait for the inevitable and sink into the darkness, which is closer than one might perceive from the outside, but rather to cling to hope! Hope that eternity with Christ paints a much more breathtaking picture than any of these pictures or memories could even hope to attain. Knowing that both heaven and earth were created by the same Being, but one was created as a rest and reward from the other! Read more here in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10.
Now, I am excited to see what 2023 holds…. What does it hold for you?