Celebrating life until the very end: Memorial is held for 91-year-old "Miss Norma"
FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash. (KTVU) - Family and friends and a group of "former strangers" gathered on Friday in Friday Harbor, Washington for a celebration of a big life, lived full until the very end.
"The wind stopped and the clouds parted at 4:30 yesterday afternoon," said a post over the weekend on the "Driving Miss Norma" Facebook page. "Miss Norma went out in style!"
The page was set up to chronicle the adventures of Norma Jean Bauerschmidt, the 91-year-old Michigan woman who decided to forgo cancer treatment and instead take a cross country RV trip to live out her final days.
Those who gathered for her celebration shared music, memories, and planted a tree in her honor.
Last year in June, Norma was diagnosed with stage-4 uterine cancer.
The news came two days after her husband Leo passed away.
Norma's family wrote that they found themselves back in a doctor's office to discuss options for treatment, and when asked how she wanted to move forward, Norma gave a pretty definitive answer.
On Facebook, her family described the moment she told her doctors her plans: "A tiny woman at 101 pounds and under five-feet tall, an exhausted Norma looked the young doctor dead in the eye and with the strongest voice she could muster, said, "I'm 90-years-old, I'm hitting the road."
And that is just what she did, until the very end.
Along with her son Tim, daughter-in-law Ramie, and their poodle, Ringo, Norma's travels took her through many states and along the way she inspired hundreds of thousands of people around the globe.
Her adventures included visits to state and national parks, whale watching, riding in a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a hot air balloon ride, and trips to county fairs.
And pretty much in every photo, she's wearing her signature Miss Norma grin.
The final stop of her odyssey was on San Juan Island in Washington. On September 9th, her family wrote, "...we have been slowly coming to terms with the fact that our grand adventure with Miss Norma may be coming to a close. Her health is beginning to decline and we have been trying to figure out how to tell the whole world."
They told the whole world by continuing to share photos of Miss Norma.
On Facebook, her followers got to see the intimate moments with family by her bedside, with Ringo cuddled next to her and her hand on his head.
Along with the photos were moving quotes including this one from A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh: "How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
Norma Jean Bauerschmidt died on September 30th.
Her family announced her passing on Facebook with a post that included Norma's hands clasped, intertwined with the hand of a loved one. And along with the photo, was this quote:
“Life is a balance
between holding on and letting go.”
On Tuesday, there was word that Miss Norma's stories will continue to be shared.
Her family announced an upcoming new book that will provide "a more in-depth chronicle of our adventures, hard conversations, and joy (oh, so much joy!)"
"DRIVING MISS NORMA" is set to be released next May and promises to feature stories, pictures, and insights that hadn't been shared before.
And as part of the announcement, her family shared a video taken earlier when they first shared the book news with Miss Norma.
The video is priceless.