By Dave Sweetman
I’ll throw something out here for all to read. Not for sympathy, nor empathy nor pity. Something to take to heart and because, quite frankly, I need to write something and, dammit ... you’re gonna listen.
The morning of Jan. 4, about 8 a.m., I was cruising down U.S. 301, west of Jacksonville, FL, on my way to Sarasota to deliver. My cell rang and it was my friend Barbara, from my town. She said my wife Laurie had just called and said she was having trouble breathing and had called 9-1-1.
Barb rushed to our house in time to meet the paramedics. They met the LifeFlight helicopter a few miles away, where she was flown to Tallahassee Memorial.
I made a U-turn, came back up to I-10 heading west. I made it to the hospital at noon and met with the doctors. My wife had an embolism (blood clot) that split and went to her heart and her lungs. Her heart had failed twice on the flight, and they performed CPR and got her stable. Although sedated, she knew I was there and squeezed my hand, but was unable to talk, due to the respirator tube. Shortly after my arrival at the hospital, her heart again failed and they asked me to leave, as they did the paddles again.
The doctor and the minister came to the waiting room and told me I had a choice to make and to come to the ICU room. If the machinery was left on, she would be alive but the damage was likely severe. If they removed the support systems, she would be on her own and would likely pass. Truly the toughest decision I have ever made in my entire life, but Laurie and I had talked about it, and we both decided many years ago quality of life is better than being kept alive by pumps, valves and beeping boxes. The dignity of death at God’s command took place over medical machinery.
At 2:10, I consented, and at 2:20 p.m. my very best friend and wonderful wife died.
Why does Dave put this out here for all to read, you ask?
The day before, I talked to Laurie four times, and she was vibrant, healthy and full of life. She had just bought new flowers to plant and had taken down the Christmas decorations. We had plans for later in the week when I was to be home, and everything was 110 percent. That was Saturday evening.
On Sunday, everything has changed, and I only wish that those of you on the road or at home would remember this: Never, ever miss the opportunity to tell those dear to you that you love them. Never miss the chance for a laugh or a smile. And never treat it as just another day, as though tomorrow will be the same, because you may not have that chance to go back and make it better.
I can honestly say that in 17 years of marriage, we never had an argument and we never had a fight. We were on the same wavelength in that she could often read my thoughts and finish my sentences for me. While the loss of my wife and best friend is extremely tough to deal with, I am very blessed to have had Laurie in my life for the past 20 years.
But what I have learned in the weeks after was how many very good friends I do have. Many whom I have never even met. I have also learned the power of the Internet and of the kindness and consideration of readers of Land Line, all due to Sandi Soendker posting a few of my words online. The response has been overwhelming and extremely humbling. From my heart, may I say thank you to all who have called or sent mail, cards and e-mail. It means more than you will ever know. LL
Dave Sweetman can be reached at email@example.com.