Shirley Faulkner went to the Panera Bread on Dirksen Parkway to order a dozen blueberry muffins. Sorry, she was told, we’re out of blueberry muffins. Shirley was disappointed to hear that. Really, really disappointed. Her husband, Jerome, who goes by “Moe,” is in the last stages of terminal liver cancer. One of the effects the disease has had on Moe is robbing him of his sense of taste. One of the few foods he can still enjoy are the blueberry muffins.

Shirley Faulkner went to the Panera Bread on Dirksen Parkway to order a dozen blueberry muffins. Sorry, she was told, we’re out of blueberry muffins. Shirley was disappointed to hear that. Really, really disappointed.

The cashier, Anna Melgreen, noticed that Shirley was taking this hard. Why? They’re just muffins. Panera will make more.

Then Shirley explained. Her husband, Jerome, who goes by “Moe,” is in the last stages of terminal liver cancer. The doctors have told him there isn’t anything more they can do.

One of the effects the disease has had on Moe is robbing him of his sense of taste. That steak and corn on the cob he used to enjoy? Nothing. That’s the way it is for him with just about everything – except those blueberry muffins from Panera. It’s one of the few foods he still enjoys.

Shirley left Panera empty-handed that day. But Anna told her boss, Sean Moser, the general manager of the restaurant, what happened.

Sean knows a thing or two about this. His grandmother was in hospice before she died of cancer. His mother-in-law works for Central Illinois Hematology Oncology Center.

“My heart dropped to the floor,” when he heard about Moe, Sean says. “I saw their phone number on the special order slip and called.”

He told Shirley that he was having a dozen blueberry muffins put into the oven just for Moe. He added that when the muffins were done, they would be delivered to Shirley and Moe’s house.

“I thought, ‘My goodness, a business going to all this trouble,’ ” Shirley says. “It’s not like we’re long-time customers. It just started one day when I tried to find something (Moe) would like. I bought a couple and he liked them.”

She thanked Sean but said he didn’t have to deliver them, she could come and pick them up. When she arrived at Panera, she not only got the muffins for free, but a big hug as well.

“I know that when people reach this stage in cancer,” Sean told Shirley, “it’s the little things in life that they look forward to. It was sad that you had to go back to him empty-handed. I was hoping that by making muffins for him it would raise his spirits. It really hurt me to see my grandma in the hospice, but I learned that the littlest things will help you have a great day.”

Sean told Moe he will never have to pay for another Panera blueberry muffin.

Moe was at the restaurant Friday morning, the day after he and Shirley celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary, for a muffin.

Moe’s a north-ender -- as is Sean, as it turns out, though they didn’t know each other until the blueberry muffin shortage. The two compared north-end notes on Friday. Moe worked at Pillsbury Mills for more than 30 years. After the mill closed, he was doorman at the Illinois House of Representatives for another 21 years. Sean grew up near the Pillsbury site and is a graduate of Lanphier High School.

At this stage of Moe’s life, he likes nothing better than playing the horses at the off-track betting parlor and having a regular hand of rummy with his sons, Jerry and Tom. Aside from Shirley’s chili, which he still can taste, it’s those blueberry muffins that give him joy.

“If he doesn’t have an appetite,” Shirley says, “that’s the one thing I can count on to get him to eat something. The doctor said to try and get him to eat, even just a half of a muffin if he can do it.”

Moe didn’t have any trouble Friday morning. He polished off the entire muffin. His smile told the story better than I could.

State Journal-Register columnist Dave Bakke can be reached at (217) 788-1541 or dave.bakke@sj-r.com.