Norma Bauerschmidt, a 91-year-old Michigan woman who chose to enjoy her life instead of undergoing cancer treatment, passed away Sept. 30. Her story became popular on Facebook thanks to a page titled Driving Miss Norma, which chronicles the adventures she had during a road trip she joined Aug. 2015 alongside her son Tim Bauerschmidt and daughter-in-law Ramie Liddle.

Just two days after her husband died in July 2015, Mrs. Bauerschmidt was diagnosed with terminal uterine cancer. It did not take her long to decide how she wanted to spend her final days. Instead of taking the huge risk of surgery, chemotherapy, and such difficult procedures most cancer patients have to undergo, she chose to embark the journey of her life in a motor home.

Driving Miss Norma
“Thelma and Louise have met their match.” Image credit: Driving Miss Norma Facebook.

Ramie Liddle said she and Tim had lived on the road for a few years before they invited Mrs. Bauerschmidt to join them, as reported by the BBC. Less than two minutes passed before she had accepted.

Her Facebook page has over 453,000 likes and is filled with comments of people from all over the world whose lives have been touched by the way she cherished life. She, her son, her daughter-in-law, and their dog had the opportunity to visit more than 75 locations in 34 states as they traveled more than 13,000 miles (20,900km). Ms. Liddle told reporters they bought a wheelchair for her and that “was her ticket to freedom”.

She was ready to do whatever she wanted. She got to take on a ride in a hot air balloon in Florida, rode a horse and had her hair done by ten different stylists. Norma got her first pedicure, her first taste of a key lime pie, fried green tomatoes, and oysters.

A post on the Driving Miss Norma page reads that the doctor who asked Bauerschmidt whether she would choose treatment in 2015 actually agreed with her when she said she would rather go on a trip.

Driving Miss Norma
“We have also learned so much about the human spirit and the beauty of people from all over the world,” a Driving Miss Norma Facebook post reads. Image credit: Driving Miss Norma Facebook.

“As doctors, we see what cancer treatment looks like every day: ICU, nursing homes, awful side effects. Honestly, there is no guarantee she will survive the initial surgery to remove the mass. You are doing exactly what I would want to do in this situation. Have a fantastic trip!” he expressed, according to the post.

Ms. Liddle created the Facebook page just so her family would know where they were and what they were doing, but it quickly started to grow. She pointed out that the three of them had discovered the best of the best of the people in the United States, according to the BBC. Indeed, the page fans invited the trio to numerous events, gatherings, and many dinners. They even got to attend an Atlanta Hawks basketball game.

Norma and her family took part in Friday Harbour in Washington and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. They visited Yellowstone National Park, toured the Massachusetts coast and took a trip underground to visit Georgia’s Consolidated Gold Mine. The inspiring woman had the chance to experience many things for the first time in less than two years.

The trio celebrated a year on the road with cake and beer before Bauerschmidt’s body began to show severe signs of the disease. They parked the RV in San Juan Island in the Pacific Northwest, which they described as the “most ideal place we could imagine”. The day of Norma’s passing was addressed on the Driving Miss Norma Facebook page as a moment to let go.

Norma’s story is changing the way people think about the end of their life

Both Tim and Ramie have told reporters that they saw Mrs. Bauerschmidt smile more than ever during the journey, which goes beyond geography. Tim’s wife said she saw her mother-in-law really smile for the first time when Norma made the funniest face while posing with a Jolly Green Giant statue in Minnesota. At that moment, Liddle knew she was absolutely up for the adventure.

The thing is that, before the journey, Mrs. Bauerschmidt usually said she didn’t want to be photographed. It turns out that all the photos posted on her Facebook page show exactly the opposite. She had a very happy final year.

Driving Miss Norma
Mrs. Norma Bauerschmidt. Image credit: Driving Miss Norma Facebook.

“We’ve come around to the fact that this isn’t even a sad story, at all,” Liddle told The Post. “There’s nothing sad about it. It is the most graceful way to land. It was a soft landing. She used up every last ounce of her little body, and lived till the last moment.”

She hopes that this story can help people have end-of-life conversations with their loved ones. Everyone has different plans about how they want to spend their final days and that needs to be discussed with their families so they can embrace the present and be happy even when that seems impossible. Regardless of where in the country they were, Norma would always say her favorite spot was ‘Right here!’

Source: The Washington Post