Lisa Niemi's grief has been immense and coping with it alone can be hard at times. She texted him while boarding a flight a year after he passed away once and cried to herself.
Patrick Swayze and his wife, Lisa Niemi, were teenagers when they met, got married in 1975, and stayed together until he passed away on September 14, 2009. It's been almost 10 years since he lost his battle to pancreatic cancer, but Lisa still grieves over losing him.
She told Entertainment Tonight that she can still feel his presence around her "every day". "When you lose someone, you never stop loving them and I feel like I have a different relationship with him now," she explained. "It's just, he's not physically present, you know what I mean?" she added.
For her, letting go has been difficult probably because of the amount of time they spent in each other's lives. "The first time Buddy and I danced together was at a school exhibition," Lisa said in a documentary, calling him by the nickname, according to Entertainment Online. "We walked out on stage... I looked in his eyes, it was like everything came alive."
The struggle they went through battling cancer for the "worst thing in the world". "You spend every day fighting for that person's life. I know that he spent every day fighting for his own... He survived 22 months, which was miraculous with the diagnosis that he received," she said.
She even put her feelings down in her 2011 memoir titled Worth Fighting For. She shared about her private last moment with Patrick and it is heartbreaking.
"My last words to Patrick? ‘I love you,’ and he responded with "I love you" as well. He had slipped into a coma and was brought home. "Things went very fast," she wrote. "I cherished our time alone, holding his hand, listening to music, sleeping with my arm around him, my head on his shoulder, wordlessly." She added, "In the quiet of Monday morning, September 14, I looked at his face and listened to the tiny sips of air he was taking. There was something delicate, childlike about it. I knew it was time."
She looks back fondly at the last few years of his life. Especially in 2008, while he was struggling with his diagnosis and yet continued to work, for a brief time he seemed fine. He was working on a TV show called The Beast working more than 12 hours a day.
"I think everybody thought I was out of my mind, you know, thinking I'm gonna pull off a TV show," Patrick had said in a 2008 interview, according to ABC News. His wife also said that the work had made him a "different man". While he spent most of his day in bed earlier, when he started working again, "his enormous burst of energy floored" her.
"He was like his old take-charge self, going non-stop. I got Patrick back," she added. He was a dedicated actor who didn't want it easy just because he was ill. "He came back from the set one day, shaking his head, steam fizzing out of his ears," she wrote. "‘They didn’t want me to jump over the wall,’ he exclaimed. ‘I’m supposed to chase this guy and jump over the wall after him. They wanted the stuntman to do it. No man, I’m jumping over the wall!’ From the start of the shoot into the first month or two, Patrick actually started to do better."
He fought for 22 months against the cancer, but it took his life away, bit by bit, before he passed away in September 2019. The diagnosis, he had written in his memoir The Time of My Life, brought him to understand how amazing his life had been. “I began thinking to myself, I’ve had more lifetimes than any 10 people put together, and it’s been an amazing ride," he wrote. "So this is okay.”
For a brief time, before his diagnosis, Patrick and Lisa had separated but they came together later and she was with him through every step of the way. Now, she tries to cope with the grief on her own. A year after he passed away, she texted his number while boarding a plane, according to ABC News.
"I just put what I always did: 'I love you.' And then I cried for a little bit to myself," she told People magazine. "It [the text message] didn't come back. So either somewhere out there received it, or someone's going, 'Somebody loves me!' And you know what? I figured it was a win-win situation."
Watching the flowers covering the casket as the people around cried at her funeral, my heart shattered as I knew the part of my soul that my mother held went with her to the grave.