Monday, January 5, 2009

Sweetman: He got the call you never want to get

Many of us in the industry know by now – tragic news spreads faster than any other –that our friend, fellow OOIDA member, and popular columnist David Sweetman is dealing with a sudden and huge hole in his life now. His wife and best friend, Laurie, died unexpectedly on Sunday, Jan. 4.

Dave, the matchless communicator and social person that he is, felt the need to express his anguish with an online note to friends. Here are his words and, whether you knew him or not, you need to pay attention.


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.

This morning about 8 a.m., I was cruising down U.S. 301, on my way to Sarasota, FL, to deliver the first of my cars. My cell phone rang and it was my good friend Barbara, from my town. She said my wife called and said she was having trouble breathing and called 911. Barb rushed to our house in time to meet the paramedics hooking Laurie [my wife] up and taking vitals. They called LifeFlight and met the helicopter a few miles away, where she was flown to Tallahassee Memorial.

I made a U-turn on 301, came back up to I-10 heading west, arriving home at 11 a.m. 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 to her lungs. He explained that her heart had failed twice on the LifeFlight and they did CPR and defib paddles 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 this afternoon 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?

Consider this.

Yesterday, I talked to Laurie four times, and she was vibrant, healthy, full of life. She had just bought new flowers she was going to plant today 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 yesterday evening.

Today everything is 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.


  1. Dave: I'm so sorry for your loss of Laurie. Your story is so touching and to your words about how life can change in an instant - thank you. My heart and prayers, and those of all of us at Newport Communications, go out to you. Kate Miller

  2. so very sorry to hear of your loss dave. our thoughts and prayers go out to you
    bob & cindy mcconnell
    aka bedbugbob

  3. bless you dave-you mean so much to so many of us out here that you've never even met-we are with you in full spirit and soul-jetjockey/seattle

  4. sorry to hear about your loss..I can relate to your feelings right now..I know its tough but do not be afraid to rely on friends and family to help you get through these rough times..Although we never met, I have been reading your column for many years..All of your trucking family will have you in our thoughts and prayers..May God bless and comfort you.
    Steve Neece

  5. Our condolences for your loss Dave. You are in our thoughts and prayers. Just know Dave she is with you always in your heart.
    Collin and Sonja Holcomb

  6. Dave,you,and your family are in my thoughts,and prayers-May God Bless,Roni Sherman

  7. I have read many of Dave's column's over the years, and I am truly saddened by this news. At least he was not too far from home so that he could spend those last few minutes with his wife before she passed. This should remind all of us how precious family is, and how quickly and abruptly our lives can change. Appreciate what you have while you can, and let those people know how much you adore and cherish them. Good luck Dave, and I wish you all the best.

  8. I wish you smiles as you remember her astounding love and beauty. I wish you peace my friend to get you through these days, weeks and months ahead. My heart is with you.

  9. Dave, I have never met you, I only know of you through your writing. This definately gives us all a wake up call to treat all of our family and friends as if we may never see them again. Thank you for sharing this very personal time. We share your grief and our prayers are with you.

  10. Dave - Our thoughts and prayers are with you. All of us here at the ranch have enjoyed your column since you were at the other magazine and we are awestruck by your courage and love for your dear wife to have passed on the news personally. Message recieved sir, we're listening. May God Bless you Dave, and keep you close to His heart through this time.
    "The original florida kid"

  11. Dave
    My heart goes out to you. The loss of someone that means so much to you is probably the hardest of life's trials.You make a very good point about letting people you love or ones that mean a lot to you know it every chance you can. I wish there was something I could do to help ease your pain but know that is something that only God is capable of, so I will be including you in my prayers.

    Love ya Brother

    Michael Frybarger

  12. Oh my god I know exactly how you feel! My wife's sister was in hospital and we had to make the same decision. It was the hardest thing we have ever had to do. My prayers are with you.

    True words were never spoken as well as you did here "Sweety", I need not write what I feal for you and your family,for you are well aware of them. My Love, Prayers and thoughts are with you all. May God continue to help and watch over you through this difficult time. I as always,am here for you as you are always there for me,
    your "Brother & Friend"

  14. Dave, thank you for sharing these heart rending events with all of us. You and also Laurie mean so much to so many of us.
    Keep on Keepin' On
    Uncle Darrell

  15. Dave, My heart breaks for you. I can't imagine your pain although my wife, also Laurie, and I have had that same talk. I know the loss will always be with you but I hope your anguish is lessened as you come to cope with your life without your Laurie.
    Mark Handy

  16. Dave, I am so sorry for you to have lost your Laurie. Thank you for sharing with us. I want you to know that how I live my life today and in the future will be different because of your sharing. May you find peace.

  17. dave, i have only worked with you for the last 2 years, and in that time have seen what your wife meant to thoughts and prayers are with you..if you need anything call me....smeds

  18. Dave; You may never read this, but I feel compelled to leave my thoughts. I have been an avid reader of yours over the years and feel as if you are a friend. We all feel your loss, as you and Laurie were a part of our lives also. May the Good Lord comfort and Bless you in our hour of need.
    Rick DeVole
    Aka Soup

  19. Dave -
    We are praying for you over here in Pasadena, TX.

    The LORD knows what you are feeling, and He knows what you need even before you do. His presence is yours for the asking.

    Romans 15:13 - I pray that the God who gives hope will fill you with much joy and peace while you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Danny & Celessa Schnautz

  20. Kenneth & Linda AKersJanuary 6, 2009 at 10:04 AM

    Dear Dave, My family and I have had a similar decision to make due to an accident that eventually took the life of my father in circumstances eerily similar to yours although it had a different cause. You are so right in every way. And while there is nothing I can say to make things better, I will pray for you; you are not alone. She will be with you always in your heart. Maybe, just maybe, the Lord saved her from something worse further on down the road. God Bless you and keep you, may He cause His face to shine upon you.

  21. Dave, I am deeply moved with sorrow to read about your sudden, unexpected loss of Laurie. I spoke with Harry a few minutes ago and our thoughts and prayers are with you, friend. GOD BLESS! John Zimmerman NEW CENTURY Trans.

  22. Dave, my sincerest condolences to You and your family. Your short note means so much more, coming from one of US. Hang in there driver, as I'm sure your Laurie would want. George Shea, aka hobbytrucker

  23. Dave,

    I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your wife, brings tears to my eyes and with the toughest of decisions. You and your family are in my prayers. God Bless.

    Sara Thornton
    River City Express

  24. Dave, There are not any words I can say to you now that will comfort you, in this time of sorrow and grief. But I will tell you you our hearts and prayers are with you, and will pray for you to find peace right now. Just know that you are loved and your sadness is felt by all of us.
    God Bless you, and Peace be with you.

    Dan & Robin Stubbs aka~"Crash and Georgia Country Girl"
    Macon, GA

  25. dave, i'm so sorry to hear this news. i feel so close to you even though we never actually met. my sister, bette garber, absolutely loved you as a friend. she forwarded on so many of your emails to me, and so i'm writing for her to tell you that you are in my thoughts and prayers now. i know about grief and all i can tell you is that you just must take it one moment at a time. i'm sure if and when you're ready, bette's husband leo would love to talk to you. he's hurting too. big hugs.
    mikie friedman

  26. Sweetie,

    You are in our thoughts and prayers and you know your family at Horseless will always be there for you in any way we can. We're going to miss all your stories about you and Laurie and the great places you went together. She was a wonderful lady and it was obvious you two belonged together. She will be missed by all who knew her.
    Lady Frog

  27. Dear Dave, I am sorry to hear this news. I could hardly keep from crying as I read this letter to my girlfriend Bonnie. Although we have never met, you have touched our lives in a way like we have known you for years.Keep on truckin and may God bless and keep you safe.

    Richard Williams,(onespeed)
    Rockingham NC

  28. Dave (our "Sweetieman),
    We hope you know what you mean to Keith and I and how our heart and prayers are with you. Mrs. Sweetieman will not only be with you forever just in a different way but she will be with us as you have shared her with us. Thank you! Please let us know what or if we can do anything. God Bless ya my other brother! Keith sends ya a hug!
    Ingrid N Keith

    Now she is eating all the fried pickles with us.

  29. One OOIDA member to another. I pray that you know the peace that surpasses all understanding.

  30. Dave, my family extends our love and prayers to you. The life we live is but a whisper and we must always thank the Lord for what we have today because tommorrow may be today. We have never met but your storys help us see the road may God keep you during this tough time and you have the prayers of a million truckers behind you. Cry when you must and stay focused we love and feel your pain. God Bless

  31. Dave,
    I could never find the words that would ever ease the pain that you are fealing right now. But please know that my family and I are praying for you. I am sorry for the loss of your best friend in the world. I alway's enjoyed the stories you told of your travels with Laurie. I am here for you, just call me.
    Your Friend & Brother
    Bob Horsey

  32. DAVE, I am glad I had the opportunity to see you
    in Paterson. I have no words to say, I am truly sorry
    for your loss. I think what you wrote will change how people see there lives. Thank you.

    Your in my Thoughts,
    Bud VanHaste

  33. Mr. Sweetman,
    I cannot relate to how you must be feeling at this time. I only know that I would be more than lost without my better half. I'm glad to hear that you were able to make it there in time to hold your wife's hand one last time. Thank you so much for finding the strength to share this important message in the midst of your grief.

  34. Thank you for sharing your story at this difficult time. It works in reminding us to appreciate each moment. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  35. Dave: sorry for your loss my brother,your in our prayers and thoughts,may she smile and rejoice in her makers arms, smiling down on you as the love of her life and this journeys best friend.Your brothers and sisters are by your side, just pick up your mic, we are here...Hugs my brother..
    Doc Holiday from Mayflower van lines

  36. i'm so sorry for yur loss,may god hold your hand . sicerly the atfields oklahoma

  37. Sometimes words cannot express what is necessary to heal the loss one suffered. Dave, in his commentary, brings up a very important point…”Be Prepared”…for we never know what our next step will be. As youngsters many of us heard those words while we were in Boy Scouts. As adults we sometimes fail to recognize the importance of those two words in our daily living until it is too late.

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dave and his family for their loss. May our Heavenly Father’s blessings and guidance be with them at this time and continue with them always.

    Bob & Carol Lee Esler

  38. Dave,
    I am very sorry for your loss. Our prayers go out to you and your family. I am a firm believer that there is a reason for everything. God has His reason and you are included in HIS plan. May HE wrap His arms around you and comfort you in your time of need.

    Mike and Wendy Winger

  39. Ladies and Gentlemen,
    From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for your kind words, thoughts and prayers. It means more to me than you can ever know.

    I don't spend much time on truck boards lately, mostly due to deadlines, schedules and commitments [and all those other Bob Seger song lyrics].

    And, because Sandi was kind enough to post what I wrote, this thread took off. Many of you I know or have met, many I have not or we have passed on one trucking board or truck show or another. But the common thread is that we are all part of the same extended, although often dysfunctional, family. You can call it brothers and sisters of the road and it's a cliche' but more true than not. And because I have chosen to make my life an open book [quite literally] and I have made a fool of myself on pages of magazines for more than 16 years, I have also been blessed with a broader sense of the trucking community and family than I could have ever imagined. That includes this place and all of you wonderful, caring people.

    This is the most difficult and trying time of my life. Quite honestly, I am a damn basketcase and am trying to sort everything out and it is not easy. Laurie was truly my very best friend in life and a most wonderful, kind and loving wife. We had no children, which is a mixed blessing, but not really. I have been blessed with the best 20 years I could have ever hoped for. That all changed on Sunday. By the graces of my faith and some very good friends, I will get through this. When I can regain brain function and get back to work, that too will be different, as I really don't have much to work for or come home to, but I'll take that as it comes.

    The reason that I made that post was not to ask for pity or sympathy, but to remind each and everyone of us that life is so very fragile and that we should never miss the chance to tell your loved ones how much the mean to us. If, for that reason, I can make a husband hug his wife and children one more time before leaving out on a trip, or for the wife to make just one more cell phone call to tell him she loves him...well...that is my intent. just may not have another chance. And honestly, I never ever missed that chance.

    For all of your kindness, caring and prayers, I thank you very, very much.


  40. AMEN BROTHER , Sorry for your loss !

  41. Dave, I've enjoyed your writings for years and finally got to meet you at the ATHS Auburn, IN convention.  Sure wish I could've have met the wonderful woman that allowed us to share you in print.  I know tears came to the eyes of evry rough n' tough trucker that read your blog and ALL of us who've read it are frateful that you shared.  All our thoughts and prayers, Dave...

  42. My Favorite Green Truck Guy:
    My heart hurts for you. I know that you and Laurie had the kind of relationship that many people dream of and never actually find. I also know that you never missed an opportunity to cherish and honor her. Your example is a damn good one to follow. You are much loved.

  43. Dave, we are so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for giving us the words of warning to make the most of every day. We cannot possibly know how you are feeling. We learned from our daughter, who lost her husband, that all kinds of feelings come later that you never expect. It is my prayer that God will renew your strength daily to cope.

  44. Dear,Friend,Dave, so sorry for your unfortunate loss,but God has seen fit to show,us,through You,how short,and important our life really is. i know of the emptyness of your heart during this difficult time.but,thanks to you and your sincere feelings you have made many realize how important it is to always commiunciate our love and feelings to home loved ones. thank God you were able to hold her hand and by just being there,you will never be seperated in sprit.all of my sympathy and heart-felt saddness to you. GOD Bless you and all of your loved ones!!!! sincerely,gary stoner.

  45. Kurt "Lil Bandit" Smith IIJanuary 7, 2009 at 4:41 PM

    I know you are my fathers best friend for he speaks highly of you often. My family and I wish you the very best and will continue to pray for your emotional healling. With all of God's grace and love may he watch over you. Much love,
    "Lil Bandit"
    Kurt II

  46. Dave-

    Everyone else has already said it for me. Take care and so sorry for your loss.

    TT23 aka Whistlebritches.

  47. Dave....It was more than 25 years ago when I met a guy who drove for Bullit Express out of Brooklyn,NY. I met this same man in a truckstop in California. This time he was driving for Horseless Carriage. It was this same man who would help me get one of the best trucking jobs of my life. That man was you Dave and though I haven't talked to you in some 20 years I have read many of your stories. My heart goes out to you for your loss. Your advice is sound and true.I hope we may meet again someday....Doug Peifer

  48. Sweetie,
    you know you are loved by the trucking family.Dave,you are like a brother to snuffy & will always be in our thoughts &prayers.if you ever need a friend to talk to just give us a your brother & sister snuffyngranny

  49. I have called my wife, my brothers and my daughter that I haven't talked to in a long time over some stoopid deal. Just let them all know how much I care. Thanks Dave for that. My daughter was amazed. I've been an idiot.

  50. Bob "Cowpoke" MartinJanuary 9, 2009 at 3:33 PM

    I never met Laurie and wish there was something I could do for Dave. Think I'll just pass along my favorite Dave Sweetman story for what it's worth:

    In June of 07 I went to Shell SuperRigs 25th anniversary truck show in Joplin, Mo. They had a $50,000 truck makeover give away as part of the 25th celebration.

    This was a thurs, fri, sat. show and Sweetman rolled in on Friday with a load of cars going to California. I think his plans were a short visit and boogie.

    Late Friday evening Dave was warming up the ole truck getting ready to head out to the promised land with his load of cars when I got the call that I was one of the six finalists in the makeover contest.

    The six finalists would be voted on sat morning by other contestants, visitors, fans whatever. I called Dave and told him the news.

    What did Dave do? He scrapped his plan to leave out and stayed over another night and campaigned for me. I think he made a nuisance of himself bugging everybody to vote for Cowpoke. It must have worked, we won.

    Thanks Dave,
    Bob Martin

  51. i wish i can change the pain for you dave and bring her back i would do it in a new york minute. tigger

  52. There is nothing here that I can say other then Amen. I feel for you. And you couldn't have said it better.

    Don't forget to tell the ones that you care about, that you care about them, even if you're not in agreement on everything.

    God Bless,

    PS, I lost my father, when I was 20, he and I hadn't been on the best of terms when he died in a car accident on I-80 near Truckee, CA. - It haunted me for many years after....

  53. Dave, words cant describe my sorrow , Laurie meant the world to our group of girls in the anaheim area. After we heard the devastating news last Sunday I think we were all in such shock we decided to meet later that day and share the wonderful memories of the past and especially from the last trip out to Orange County in September. Laurie has touched our lives and we will always have the memories of her kindness, and true friendship. My thoughts and prayers are with you Dave. Trix Corapci

  54. Dave, this blog is amazing - but it shows you how well respected you are. This post has obviously touched and changed the lives of people, as have the columns you've written for years. You do make a difference and that is a gift and a blessing.
    I feel like I lost a sister, but my pain is for you because I know how much you adored Laurie. I'm proud of you for staying (reasonably!) sane and I know that if you accept the help so many friends have offered, we will get you through this.
    We can never replace her, but we will never forget her.
    Agostino's next time you're out - she'll be with us!


  56. Bless you, my friend. I know you don't Remember this old car haulin biker. Haven't seen you for years, but I know what a tru-blu guy you were to your wife. Plenty of us out here need to do the same so if we got the call, we could hold our heads up.

  57. Dave-
    Sorry about your wife. Sorry. The same thing happened with my wife on December 5th, 2003. You did the right thing. My wife was also on a ventilator and I had to tell them to turn it off. It's been 5 years and I still think about Martha evry day. I don't know if you remember me, but I met you at Railroad Pass early in 2004. I was in a flatbed loaded with Palm trees who slept behind you in the parking lot. In the morning we talked, I was talking about my wife, and you were very comforting to me. I wish I could make you feel better like you did me. You'll never be the same, but you sure have a lot of friends on the road grieving with you and thinking about you. Sorry, Dave. I'm truly sorry.
    John Korn

  58. Holy shit.. Just saw this while cruizing some old blogs I mighta missed. Dave, you dont know me but hope youre making it OK. I used to be a driver and read your stuff for yrs. Thinking of you friend.


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