At the age of 90, Michigan native Norma Bauerschmidt was told by doctors she needed to proceed with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Two days prior, her husband Leo had died in the same hospital and Norma knew she wanted to live out a different fate. She told her concerned doctor, “I’m hitting the road” and that is exactly what she did with the help of her son, Tim, his wife Ramie, and their dog, Ringo.
Norma, Tim, Ramie and Ringo set off on an adventure in a 36 ft motor home, notching up 13,000 miles across 32 states. Along their travels, Norma decided to try everything she wanted to before she took her last breaths. She tried oysters, gin and tonics, cannabis products to ease her pain, had pedicures, went hot-air ballooning, horseback riding and zip lining. When others heard of Norma’s adventures they assisted in any way they could to fulfill her last wishes. This led the Atlanta Hawks basketball team to allow Norma to be an honorary co-captain on her 91st birthday, waving to their 20,000 strong crowd and taking in the acoustics and atmosphere. Her birthday was also celebrated with two types of cake, beer and ten hair stylists!
Ultimately, Norma’s cancer got the better of her and she passed away in October 2016, peacefully in the motor home on an island seaport on the north-western tip of Washington state named Friday Harbour. To commemorate her life, a tree was planted by the local community with a plaque bearing her name and years. Norma’s adventures before her passing were documented by Tim and Ramie in their book after she had agreed to join the journey.
When Tim thought up the idea of bringing her along, he wasn’t sure she would agree but thought it would be the most appropriate place for her to be. He said “It was an organic idea. We certainly didn’t over-think it or it mightn’t have happened. She couldn’t stay in the house. A nursing home seemed wrong. I felt like she didn’t have much time left and I needed to spend what there was with her. I hoped to share the lifestyle I loved with her so I just felt I had to put it out there, I had promised my dad I would take care of her.”
After settling her husbands’ estate, the only thing Norma took from the house they shared was a pillow. They hit the road only two days after his passing so it took time for Norma to come out of a depression. When she did, she took the time to do all the things she had ever wanted to do and recorded it in a journal, finishing her life in the most ideal way. Tim stated of his incredible mother, “She didn’t have expectations and she saw every day as a gift.”