He had a style and charisma like no other.
On his deathbed, he uttered three words that have haunted his wife, Lisa, ever since...
One of the most iconic on-screen heartthrobs of the ’80s and ’90s, Swayze is best remembered as the romantic lead in classics like Dirty Dancing and Ghost.
But he was a romantic in real life as well and had a love story better than any of his Hollywood movies: he was married to his wife Lisa Niemi for 34 years until his death in 2009.
In the years since, his widow has opened up about her final days with Swayze, including the last words he said to her before his untimely passing.
Niemi spoke about her marriage this year for the documentary I Am Patrick Swayze, which aired in August 2019—on his birthday and just short of the ten-year anniversary of his death in September.
She met Swayze before he was famous. They tied the knot in 1975, four years before the actor’s film debut. They first met as teenagers when Niemi started taking dance lessons from Swayze’s mother.
“I was 14 years old when I first laid eyes on him,” Niemi wrote in her memoir Worth Fighting For. “Patrick was tanned, buff, had a dazzling smile and a reputation as a Casanova.”
But it would take a while before affection really started to bloom between the future married couple.
“If I started putting on a pose or doing my Casanova routine, Lisa would turn away and not say anything,” Swayze told People. “We had a lot of dates in silence.”
But once they started dating, their blossoming romance was like a real-life Dirty Dancing. Patrick knew he couldn’t let Lisa go. As the years went by, she also found she liked him. And thus, they soon became a couple.
“The first time Buddy and I danced together was at a school exhibition,” Niemi recalled in the documentary, according to ET. “We walked out on stage… I looked in his eyes, it was like everything came alive.”
The couple remained happily married throughout Swayze’s incredible success in Hollywood. He was a sex symbol for women around the world and named “Sexiest Man Alive” by People Magazine, but still remained loyal to his wife.
“I knew she was the smartest chick I’d ever met. [Before Lisa] I had been meeting girls with names like “Mimi” and “Angel”. And for a long time, I didn’t feel like I deserved her,” Swayze explained
On June 12, 1975, the two got married. Lisa and Patrick’s union stood out in Hollywood, where many marriages don’t last very long. It was a fairytale romance that was missing only one thing: Lisa and Patrick had no children.
Since the very day they got married, Swayze and Niemi longed to start a family. They were euphoric when Lisa became pregnant. Their joy turned to devastation, though, when she miscarried.
“It broke his heart. He wanted to be a dad more than anything. He had skills, knowledge, kindness, and love – everything a child would want,” Swayze’s long-time friend and bodyguard Frank Whiteley said.
”I was born to be a dad,” Swayze said, according to Closer magazine.
As the years passed, Lisa realized she was getting too old to have a child. So instead, Niemi asked her husband if he would consider adoption.
“I had been seeing an acupuncturist for a long time, and then all of a sudden I was too old,” Lisa revealed in the Paramount Network documentary, I Am Patrick Swayze, in August 2019 and continued:
“I probably should have been better informed about to go about it, but anyway I may have wasted some time. But you know I said ‘you know, how would you feel about adopting?’ He got very teary-eyed and he said ‘I want to have children with you.’”
“Patrick very much wanted to be a father because I think he wanted to be as good a father to his child as his dad had been to him,” his manager, Kate Edwards, later said in the documentary.
Patrick’s brother, Don Swayze, also gave some heartbreaking insight into the movie star’s desperate will to be a dad.
“You could tell he would have been a great dad, Just as an uncle you could see it, you could see the amazing dad he would be,” Don revealed. ” … He would have never wanted Lisa feeling bad for having miscarriages, but it crushed him, so they tried.”
It was, of course, a significant setback for Patrick Swayze that he never got to be a father. But his career continued to flourish, and Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi considered their love for each other the most important thing.
Tragically, their story was to end in mourning. After 30 years of marriage, the couple got devastating news when Swayze was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer.
Despite the grim diagnosis, Swayze fought through it for a long time, even continuing to work on set. His wife was by his side every step of the way:
“It’s the worst thing in the world to go through,” Niemi said. “You spend every day fighting for that person’s life. I know that he spent every day fighting for his own.”
But by September 2009, it was clear Swayze didn’t have much longer. Swayze, a lifelong heavy smoker, was treated at Stanford University by Dr. George A. Fisher.
After a while, he became too weak to continue chemo.
“I had to let go or it would have shredded my heart,” Niemi wrote and continued:
“As it was, my heart was shredded anyway. I felt as if I had failed. The only way to bear it was to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t about me. It was about our love. I had to let go.”
Niemi stayed by her husband’s side in his final hours and can still recall the final words they shared with each other:
“My last words to Patrick? ‘I love you,’ and those were his last words to me,” she recalled.
“I lay back at Buddy’s side, I held his hand and felt his pulse again… And then he didn’t breathe any more.”
Swayze died on September 14, 2009. Fans everywhere mourned his death, but no one could possibly miss him more than his beloved wife.
After his death, Patrick left behind a handwritten love letter to his wife.
Shortly after, ABC’s “Good morning America” released an audio clip in which Swayze narrates parts of the letter written to Lisa.
“How grateful I am that you chose to love me,” the actor wrote.
“I know that because of you, I’ve found my spirit. I saw the man I wanted to be,” Swayze continued in the audio clip of the book and added: “You are my woman, my lover, my mate and my lady. I loved you forever, I love you now and I will love you forever more.”
Patrick Swayze – cause of death
Many thought that it was Swayze’s continuous smoking habit that had killed him. During his cancer treatment, Swayze continued to work – and smoke.
“I’ve seriously cut down,” Patrick told Barbara Walters. “I was one of those dumb ones that started back in the Marlborough Man days whose — you know, it was cool. I’m a cowboy. But I’ll tell you one thing. I will talk so hard core against, against smoking for kids. That’s one reason I’ve never smoked in front of children.”
Yet, according to his doctor, that wasn’t the case. Instead, he saw it as “quite an accomplishment” that Swayze survived as long as two years with the condition.
”I think at the point that one is already diagnosed with cancer, there’s little additional harm in it,” Dr. Fisher said. “And if it — it seems to provide him some comfort or partly identity of who he is, I certainly have no objections to that.”
Before his passing, Patrick provided his mother with a house and also sent her a monthly allowance, which his wife Lisa continued to do. He also left his $40 million fortune to his wife.
Many years after his death, Patrick Swayze lives through his iconic film performances… and in the hearts of his loved ones who still miss him every day.
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