Curled up on this freezing Sunday morn with "Worth Fighting For" by Lisa Niemi Swayze. She wrote the book 6 months after her husband, Patrick Swayze, lost his battle with Pancreatic cancer. Their previous book that they wrote during the heroic time where he lived with the disease chronicled their relationship in the most honest of lights. So needless to say, Lisa doesn't re-hash all of that here, what she's doing is telling the story of how "there is a high price to be paid for the privilege of caring for your loved one when he's dying" and how she wouldn't trade it for anything.
There is a part so poignant when she talks about how everyone talks about divorce rates and how to cope with divorce but nobody really talks about what happens when you keep your vows and you get to the "till death do us part" promise. No one really talks about that, how you say goodbye, how you continue living.
There is another description that I love,
"I also felt the physical evidence of this adrenaline when I worked out in our dance studio. I felt stronger than I had in a long time. As if I were eighteen, my leg whooshed up with effortless intention. Magic. I sat down to play piano, and I was faster and more adept than ever...I had this feeling as if I could leap over buildings in a single bound simply...because I could. I felt an incredible ability to overcome. That, or crash and burn big-time! For real, I had an incredible obstacle ahead of me. Both Patrick and I did...it was, how do we find a way to make him live? Yeah, just a little thing. And it was like my body was powering up for this, streamlining for the task ahead and leaving unnecessary encumbrances behind.
Maybe it was the terrible grief I was already feeling that was pumping new energy through my veins, or maybe it was really that grief was pulling off the layers of clothing to reveal the 'authentic' me under the cloak of all things, all the personalities I've tried so hard to be.
One thing for sure. I didn't need to be bothered with any of that stuff now. I was traveling light."
I love how when it was time to fight, her body responded! I love how the fight stripped everything down to what was really important and to who they were at the core! I love that she was traveling light!
I'm a lucky girl, because like most girls of the 80's I had an insane crush on this woman's beautiful husband. My bedroom wall had a giant sized poster of him splashed above my bed, I watched faithfully with my mom one season as the North & South miniseries unfolded in our living room weekly, and because I was in Utah and raised to be a prude I snuck bits and pieces of Dirty Dancing every time it was airing on HBO... feeling guilty as I watched Johnny Castle teach Baby how to dance. When I played house with my cousins and siblings often times I was married to "Patrick Swayze" (when I was taking time off from Dylan Mckay of course); and when my mom took me to see Ghost in the movie theatre I peed in my pants because I was too afraid to miss any moment of the movie, I can remember my mom tying her jacket around my waist; the point is like most girls of the 80's I was a bit obsessed. But unlike most of the other girls I actually got to meet this man.
It was November 2006, a little over a year before the Swayze's would receive the diagnosis that would change their world. It was a cold London night, the day after America's Thanksgiving. David and I were down in London to stay the night; grab about as nice of a Mexican meal as one could find in the whole of the UK and to see a musical. But this wasn't any musical... this was Guys & Dolls starring... you guessed it! Patrick Swayze! We got dinner early, and made our way over to London's West End to get to the theatre early so I could try to spot him. Well, we were not the only ones with that idea, many people were standing outside the theatre waiting for the arrival of Mr. Swayze. Some with tickets to the show, some without; it was a gigantic hodgepodge of touristy Americans, and adoring Brits!
Just as I was realizing that our chances of getting anything other than a passing photo with everyone else's cameras held high and flashes going off were slim to none; a security guard pulled me aside, leaned in, and whispered, "He's not coming in this way, he's coming around the back side, quietly." I looked at him as he motioned with his eyes and a nod of his head that I should walk around the corner. So we did, casually, cooly. When we got over to the abandoned side of the building in a dark alley, I went over it with Dave. Is this guy pulling our leg? Did I look crazy? Do I? Is that why he told us to leave? What if we miss his arrival? As I was debating what to do... (mostly with myself), a door opened and light and music spilled out into the alley. That same guard walked through the door and told us that Patrick would be arriving in a matter of moments and that we should stay back and he would approach Patrick and see if he had a moment to stop.
Sure enough the car pulled up and I could see him in the back seat, the guard walked over, opened the back door, leaned in and said something quietly to Patrick who then looked over the guards shoulder to us standing against the wall staring back at him. Patrick nodded and then walked towards us. I don't remember the exact exchange of words (I was a bit star struck, but trying to act normal). He asked if I'd like a picture? Boy did I!!! I remember thinking... Patrick Swayze has his arm around my waist. His beautifully sculpted, lifting women out of water above his head arm around my waist!!! Is this for real? As he turned and started walking away, I stammered out one last thing, "Thank you!!! I've loved you since I was a little girl!" In hindsight this probably wasn't the best thing to say, it could make him feel old. But he smiled, and he said, "Thank you, thank you." And it wasn't pompous, it was sincere.
In the book, his wife talks about how he had grown self-concious about the fact that you are only as great as your last movie in the eyes of Hollywood. Reading the book that they wrote together and now reading this one I have a whole new appreciation for him. Not only was he the stuff my girly dreams were made of, but he loved big! He and his wife had a love so big and real that it truly is something worth fighting for. All too often we settle, or we give up, or we take for granted. I'm waiting for something worth fighting for.