Tag Archives: driving miss norma

‘Driving Miss Norma’ teaches valuable lessons on aging, caregiving, dying

I haven’t been shy about my professed loved and admiration for “Miss Norma” Bauerschmidt, who at 90, became an internet sensation when, instead of undergoing grueling treatment for uterine cancer while dealing with the recent death of her husband, she told her doctor, “I’m hitting the road.”

Driving Miss Norma: One Family’s Journey Saying “Yes” to Living, a book about the final, amazing year of Norma’s life, is now available, and I highly recommend it.

Norma joined her son and daughter-in-law in a motor home for an epic trip around the U.S., where she was welcomed like a celebrity everywhere she stopped. While Norma’s symptoms were managed quite well on the road, her cancer progressed and she died on September 30, 2016.

Her story has touched millions around the world, and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Norma’s story touches upon many topics that are near and dear to my heart. First, the “treatment without question” mentality that pervades the American health care system got turned on its head here. The doctor was taken aback by Norma’s reaction at first, but admitted that his own treatment recommendation would have set up Norma on a long road of recovery that she may not have survived. Instead of spending months in a skilled nursing facility recovering from major surgery and being sick from chemotherapy, Norma chose quality over quantity for the remainder of her life.

The highs and lows of caregiving are poignantly and honestly discussed in this book. Norma’s son and daughter-in-law don’t shy away from the challenges that family caregiving poses, which are only complicated when mixed with an unpredictable life on the road. Norma’s son and daughter-in-law weren’t experienced caregivers before taking on Norma, and their “nomadic by choice” lifestyle had to be adapted to Norma’s abilities and health challenges. Ultimately it was an experience that they wouldn’t trade for all the world, but I appreciate their openness in discussing their caregiving experience.

What was most surprising to me was how, according to her son, Norma was not known as the “wild gal” that we saw on Facebook who would make funny faces for the camera or who took delight in quirky tourist spots. Norma, a quiet, stable presence in the family, had been content to live in her husband’s shadow. But once on the road, a new side of Norma emerged. This may be the most important lesson of all in the book. It is never too late to find oneself.

By late summer, it became apparent that Norma’s trip through this life would be coming to a close soon. Being on the road presented some unique challenges, but Norma passed on as comfortably as is possible, surrounded by love and fulfilled in a year’s worth of joyous sights and experiences. For everyone seeking that elusive “good death,” I think after reading this book you will conclude that Norma had a good one.

Obviously, not all of us have adult children who could accommodate such an epic life’s end journey. What we can take from the book is that when faced with what could have been an overwhelmingly depressing moment in her life, coping with the death of her husband and a cancer diagnosis, Norma chose to embrace optimism. Norma chose adventure, to let go of any old grievances and open her heart to new people and experiences. One of the catchphrases for Norma’s journey is, “Say yes to living.”

That’s a lesson we could all take to heart.

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RIP Miss Norma

miss-norma

Photo via Driving Miss Norma/Facebook

I’ve written before about how inspiring I found Miss Norma to be. At 90, after losing her husband and being diagnosed with stage IV uterine cancer in a short period of time, Norma decided to skip grueling cancer treatment and “hit the road.”

Norma joined her son, daughter-in-law, and dog and embarked on a year-long adventure of a lifetime. The journey was lovingly documented on the Driving Miss Norma Facebook page.

But all good things must come to an end. Norma Jean Bauerschmidt died Sept. 30, 2016. When asked how she wanted to be remembered, Norma said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if others could just spread joy in the world.”

Wouldn’t that be nice indeed.

Her bright, upbeat, and loving spirit will be missed, but I will forever be inspired by her choice to embrace quality of life and truly live the time she had left in this world. Norma in many ways reminded me of my own mother. I’ve included a couple of my favorite photos and posts of her below.

In memory of Norma, do something special for someone you love, or for a complete stranger. Spread the joy!

 

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‘Driving Miss Norma’ inspires many

I have been following the journey of Norma, the 90-year-old woman who lost her husband and learned that she had cancer in the same 2-week time span. While that would drive many of us straight to our beds, Norma surprised everyone by saying she wanted to hit the road.

Her family is taking her on a trip around the country, and Norma is having the time of her life. She chose to skip a risky surgery, and cancer treatment that would have left her sick and exhausted, and instead live out her final days on a grand adventure.

Miss Norma

Miss Norma, via Driving Miss Norma/Facebook.

 

When Norma told her doctor of her plans, he responded, “Right on!”

The world agrees, and the Driving Miss Norma Facebook page has gone viral, with thousands of people around the world following her journey.

I love her attitude. And for those who think skipping treatment is “giving up” the only thing Miss Norma has given up is the misery of uncertainty. Yes, the cancer she has will likely kill her. But instead of sitting around and worrying about it, or obsessing over treatments that may offer false hope, Norma is doing exactly what someone with a limited time span should do: experiencing every last drop of life she can, while she can.

We don’t have to wait until we are 90 and have a terminal illness to live like Norma. Sure, we can’t all necessarily hop into an RV and tour the country, but we can start carving out time to focus on what is important to us, instead of what others think is important.

 

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