Adios, Norm

This past weekend an EMS ambulance came to our campground, lights and sirens blazing, going way over the 15 mph speed limit.  The truck stopped a couple hundred yards from our site and the medics went about their business.  Ten minutes later they left going slowly, with no lights or sirens.  It was clear that one of two things had happened:  1) somebody cut himself, they bandaged him, and that was that; or 2) something happened but now it made no sense to be in any kind of hurry to go anywhere.

It turned out to be the latter.  A massive heart attack had taken a camper in his sleep.  He was a man we had never met.  But we learned that he was a full-timer, half of each year, which made him seem a kindred spirit.  Showing up at his ceremony seemed like the right thing to do.

Today Kat and I rode our bikes out to the remote section of the park for Norm Probert’s park memorial.  Norm lettered in football in Central Michigan U in 1961.  He had a long career coaching high school athletes in Charlevoix, Michigan.  He coached everything but golf, and his favorite sport was wrestling.  He was a big hunter and fisherman, and after retirement spent every winter in Louisiana and Mississippi in his 40’ RV with his wife of 55 years, Judy.

His family came here for the memorial.  There were no tears, just story-telling, lots of good food and laughter.  It was more like a jazz funeral than a regular one, except no music.  Norm must have been a fellow who made sure everybody knew where they stood with him, all the time.  Nobody seemed distressed at not getting to say goodbye.  I can only assume that is because everything that needed to be said had been said, or was understood.

There were albums full of pictures of Norm, his buds, and some of the kids he had coached.  Everybody loved this guy.  I wish we had met him.  He went out doing what he loved to do, living the RV life and enjoying the great outdoors.  If you happened to see Legends of the Fall, you saw an old Brad Pitt at the end, armed with just a knife, fighting a huge grizzly.  Then we saw his Native American friend describe it as a ‘good death’.  Norm’s was also a good death, and a just conclusion to a life well lived.

At the end of the memorial his family released a dozen big helium balloons, all tied together.  We watched them climb and climb into that clear blue sky, getting smaller and smaller.  And then they were gone.  Norm Probert, rest in peace.

3 thoughts on “Adios, Norm

  1. A friend of a friend had a father pass away whilst long term bicycle touring around Australia. Similar sentiments. A good way to go. Do what you love, to the sweet sweet end.


    1. Like the dancing Snoopy headstone, some people live life so fully that when they leave it, there are smiles through the tears of the survivors. We should aspire to live such lives.


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