I don’t usually write about news stories.
But mostly, I don’t write about news stories.
But today I’m gonna.
Because of one Ms. Bauerschmidt.
I spent the morning with her. Well, her and her son and his wife, and also Ringo (their dog)… All of whom I now think of as superheroes.
It all started with a stumble across my niece, Meighan’s, Facebook post a little before 9 a.m. I’d gotten a notification that Number One Son Sam had commented on it, and I saw his comment was… wait, let me go see so I get it right…
“I’M NOT CRYING. YOU’RE CRYING!!!”
And, with a comment like that from a like-minded soul…. I dove in.
Meig’s post was from the Independent, a U.K. (United Kingdom, not the University of Kentucky (March Madness, dontcha know)). The date on the article was October 5, 2016.
“91 Year-Old Who Inspired Thousands by Skipping Chemotherapy to go on End of Life Road Trip Dies.”
I read the whole thing with a sense of wonder accompanied by tears.
Then I read it out loud to JoHn and muscled my way through an uncooperative throat (kept closing up) when I got to the end.
But back to the title.
Sure, she died.
But, man oh man oh man. She lived.
There were, of course, many more articles featuring Miss Norma. Google showed me that. She was even the subject of a CBS News segment (and probably many others).
How did I miss this?
Miss Norma, at 89, had just said goodbye to her husband of 66 years when she and her family were given the options for her own diagnosis of uterine cancer. And, after given the recommendations of chemo, radiation – the works – what did she do? She decided to hit the road.
Seriously. That’s what she said.
“I’m hitting the road!”
And her doctor gave his support, and smiled and wished her well.
Which is how, this morning, I fell in love with a doctor I’ll never meet.
The article in the Independent talked about her son and daughter in-law, and Ringo, hitting the road with Norma for a year, striking out in their RV on adventures ranging from hot air ballooning to the grand canyon to sampling fried green tomatoes for the first time.
The pictures in the article were awesome, and just whetted my appetite. I wanted more. More of this magic.
More Miss Norma.
The article mentioned a Facebook page, followed by more than 400,000 people.
Again, how did I miss this?!
Had to head over there too.
Now followed by over 500,000 people, the page cocooned me as I scrolled and read and cried – every tear one of awe and joy.
Photos of Norma enjoying Starbucks’ grande caffeinated concoctions with her son…
Garden paths in Charleston.
Riding in a convertible – not at, but in – a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Hilton Head…
A picture next to the Jolly Green Giant.
Trying oysters for the first time in the French Quarter.
And then photos closer to home.
The Massachusetts coast…
The Maine Coast…
The LL Bean flagship store in Freeport, and a photo with the big boot.
All along the way, Miss Norma’s Facebook page is peppered with great photos and awesome quotes. Being a quote junkie, I lapped them up.
The words of Tich Nhat Hanh…
As her year on the road, and her life, came to an end Miss Norma and her loving and wily crew ( I began to think of them as her wily crew, I don’t know why, and this included – of course – Ringo, the white Standard Poodle)… anyway, the crew rolled into Friday Harbor, Washington, on the island of San Juan.
And I realized something that was a bit of a shock.
Miss Norma had visited my back yards on the east coast – spots I had been and knew well in Massachusetts and Maine… and later went to a place I had never visited, not once in my whole life, until I did – In September of 2016.
Friday Harbor, Washington.
I was there.
While she was there.
By September 26th, the day Mac, Jack, and I stepped off of the Ferry and into that strikingly beautiful place, Ms. Norma – who had arrived in August, and had begun to decline – was in hospice care on the island. Some of the photos on her Facebook page are quite funny. One shows her giving the middle finger to the camera – the middle finger has one of those oxygen measuring thingies clipped to it.
Oh, how I wish I had met her.
She died, surrounded by love and – I’ll bet – quite a bit of admiration, on September 30, 2016. The San Juan Islander, the local paper, announced a service – open to the public – shortly after that (there is a lovely video). Her son and daughter in-law had wonderful things to say about the people of Friday Harbor.
I’ve ‘liked’ Miss Norma’s page on Facebook, so I can visit it often (her daughter in-law is still posting there regularly). And, as I was scrolling through I found myself in the market for a new book….
That’s Ringo in the passenger’s seat.
I have had a smile on my face, along with the occasional wet eyes, all day. It’s hard to put into words why this is.
That this woman was such an example?
That she went out on her own terms?
That she was so loved, and so loving, by and of life and family and friends old and new right up until she slipped from this world?
But then, scrolling again through her Facebook page, a quote by Jacob Nordby quietly, as if in slow motion, leapt off the screen and nestled beside an idea I carry in my own soul’s pocket…
“We wait, starving for moments of high magic to inspire us, but life is full of common enchantment waiting for our alchemists’ eyes to notice.”
The extraordinary in the ordinary.
Goosebumps for and with a kindred spirit.
I was late to your final act, Miss Norma. But thank you, for enchantment and for the high magic.
As a young girl, my daughter was, for many years, a gymnast.
When a gymnast finishes tumbling, or comes down off any apparatus… when she lands perfectly… it is said that she’s ‘stuck the landing’.
This is followed by salutes to the judges – hands above head, arms and body stretched strong and high, two pivots… accompanied by a knowing smile. She nailed it.
Well, you did.
You stuck the landing, Miss Norma.
Perfect tens all around.
Thanks for readin’.
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