In August 2015, Norma Jean Bauerschmidt became an internet sensation. Days after her husband of 67 years passed away Norma found herself sitting in a doctors office being diagnosed with cancer and facing treatment options. The 90 year old woman squarely told the doctor she was not going to be doing any treatment options, she was hitting the road! And she did.
For the past year I have been one of thousands who have followed Miss Norma’s story through their facebook page, Driving Miss Norma. Miss Norma joined her son and daughter-in-law and traveled 10,000 miles in a 36 foot RV. They have traveled the country in the past year and posted inspirational photos along the way.
Last week, Miss Norma at the age of 91 passed away. Her end of life celebration is tomorrow, October 7 in Friday Harbor, Washington where Miss Norma spent the last of her days. If you are in this part of the country, the end of life celebration is open to the public. But if you are not able to attend, you can still honor Miss Norma’s life by simply spreading joy in your world. She loved cake and root beer floats.
Miss Norma’s story has touched me for several reasons. Obviously being a RV traveler and enthusiast, I am taken by anyone who hits the open road for an extended time. While I need to work right now, one day I plan to live my days out as a nomad just as Miss Norma did.
The other reasons Miss Norma’s story touched me in such a significant way is that I, just like Norma, have sat in the doctors office and been handed a cancer diagnosis and weighed all the treatment options available to me. Yes, I am a cancer survivor. Six years ago, as my Time Hop app is now reminding me daily, I was battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. Many of you here don’t know that about me. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and every year that I pass my diagnosis date I am reminded that my life is forever changed:
- I do not want to put off doing what makes me happy. There is no time like the present to live a happy life. Life is too short to put off things that you “one day want to do”. Make the time for those things now. Honestly, that is why I love our RV so much. We are able to travel and spend time as a family doing those things that make us happy.
- Life is full of adventure; even if you can’t hit the road for a 10,000 road trip, there are places to explore and adventures to be had in our own back yards. Go and explore!
- Life is too short and precious to carry around heavy baggage; let it go! From relationships to personal choices don’t carry around negativity. This is probably another reason I love camping so much. You hardly ever encounter a grumpy camper.
- Be present and make memories often. I get it, I like my technology as much as the next person, but sometimes we just need to put it down and be present enough to make a memory with a loved one. When I was diagnosed all I could think about was my children’s lives without me. Even when I managed to not think about it during my waking moments, it seeped into my dreams at night. So, yes, we make the time to play checkers, catch fireflies, or play Bocce ball. We go for hikes and we teach ourselves how to Geocache just so we can look back on all of our shared experiences and smile. Even when they were not so successful!
Miss Norma’s decided to forgo treatment and to hit the road. She made a decision to take control over the time she had and to live each day to its fullest. I respect the decision she made and each day I saw her Facebook post, she inspired me. As Miss Norma is honored tomorrow, lets be inspired by her once more. We do not need to wait until we are handed a medical diagnosis to change our lives. We can do that today!
Our thoughts and prayers are with Miss Norma’s family and loved ones. Thank you for sharing her with us. I hope our love and support can comfort you in this time of loss.