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.