It’s times like these

I was driving to my grief counseling session, foolish enough to listen to the radio.

I can’t listen to music anymore, and music is something I’ve loved my whole life. Music is passion and feelings and emotion and more. A passionate love of music is also something Rick and I shared.

We had different tastes in music, but we both had such eclectic taste, so many likes and dislikes that there were whole genres of music that we mutually enjoyed.

He was a Paul Simon fan. I was not. When Simon was with Garfunkel, yes, but don’t tell me 50 ways to leave my lover, or put diamonds on the souls of my shoes.

I was a rebellious teen in the 70s – 3 years younger than Rick. Although we both loved much of the music from the sixties and some early 70s, we branched off when it came to hard rock. Give me some Led Zepplin or Black Sabbath. Rick wasn’t interested.

He liked folk music. I could tolerate some of it.

I introduced him to Celtic and bagpipes. We eventually shared a love of Carrickfergus by Van Morrison and the Chieftains.

We agreed on classical – a thumbs up from both of us. In the past year, we discovered the Vitamin String Quartet – the group covers dozens of popular songs that Rick and I both enjoyed. It could probably be considered elevator music, but it became our go-to music of an evening.

Five for Fighting’s Superman, Walking in Memphis, some Elvis tunes, old Beatles, and even Monkees hits were on our mutual playlists.

So, not only is it difficult to listen to our shared songs now (each one evoking memories of evenings by the fire, or under our gazebo, or on the beach, or in our quiet living room), there are even songs I never cared for very much that elicit strong feelings.

Rod Stewart sings, you’re in my heart, you’re in my soul…and tears begin to fall, although I’d never particularly cared for the song before.

If a song was popular during that last year together, whether we liked it or not, I feel the pain of that time again. “Unsteady” by the Ambassadors wrenches my heart strings from remembering how my strong, muscular husband weakened so much that I supported him as he walked (Hold, Hold on, Hold on to me, ‘Cause I’m a little unsteady, a little unsteady… if you love me, don’t let go).

Old songs or new, if they mention missing you, loving you, life without you, there will never be another you, or any other of those sentiments, I have to turn the dial.

And so, I have begun to listen to audio books. I took over Rick’s Audible account and listen to novels, new ones I’m purchasing with his left over credits, as well as books he has in his history, so I can feel closer to him knowing he was listening to this same story not so long ago.

But today, I didn’t connect my bluetooth Audible account to the radio. The ride to the counseling office isn’t too far, so I took a chance on some music.

… It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again…

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Foo Fighters, but as this song began to play, this refrain spoke to me. I was on my way to grief counseling, for cripes sake. Four months after my husband’s death, I was trying to learn to live again.

But there was more. The song seemed so familiar, as if it was somehow significant, in some way related to Rick’s death.

And then I remembered.

On the day Rick died, my daughter in law was stuck several miles away. My son made it to the hospital in time, but Lindsey stayed at the hotel room with their toddler and baby. That night, after putting one of my grandsons to bed, she wrote a beautiful post that included those lyrics.

tonight as i put jonas down i hummed a different tune not sure why foo fighters pop’d in my head but it did, and i just went with it. it was only moments before that i found out we lost a great man….a husband, a tall papa, a father, a friend… it’s never easy losing a loved one…but this one will be really hard. my boys lost a papa.
“It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again”
Rick, we love you.

About the author

Katherine Billings Palmer is a technical writer, poet, and essayist from Garden City, Michigan. She’s won several academic writing awards, including first place in the University of Michigan Dearborn Critical Essay Contest for her work about poet John Donne: “‘The Sun Rising’: A Lover’s Boast.”

In 2017, Katherine’s husband, Rick, died of complications from small cell lung cancer. She wrote a series of poems and essays about her struggles to cope with her grief. I Wanted to Grow Old With You is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

Her latest book, A Widow’s Words: Grief, Reflection, Prose, and Poetry – The First Year was published in January 2019 and is also available on

Katherine is a guest blogger for the Hope for Widows Foundation and writes about her grief journey at

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