The Dream

Dear Rick,

I can’t stand it. I can’t stand that you’re not here with me.

Yes, I’m proud of myself. I drove to Florida. But the pride doesn’t count for much when compared to the misery I’m feeling right now.

Not seeing you in the chair next to me at sunset was devastating. You’re supposed to be here. And, once again, I’m amazed that you’re gone. It happened so fast. Our wonderful life together was here one moment, and torn apart the next.

I know, I shouldn’t complain. Many don’t have the time we had in the end. The ten months after the diagnosis, when we knew that we needed to make every moment count. But you were in remission, and the way you died so unexpectedly blindsided me. Neither of us were ready for it to happen so suddenly.

And yet, I had a dream the other night about you. You were alive and taking photos in a mall of some sort. But it was me, now, in the present, and I knew what was going to happen and how you were going to die. I knew I was going to get the idea for you to take in the garbage – to practice walking and do a chore, just to make life a little more normal for you. You had been struggling just to rise from your chair, but the day before you had more strength, and that morning you wanted to do something, anything, that was “normal.”

And you asked, “What’s on the agenda today?” And I suggested, “Why don’t you try to take the garbage cans up to the house?” And you were happy, so happy to do that little chore. And you said, “I think I can do that!” And so you went out, and you fell, and died of complications from the fracture. And just like that, you were gone.

And in the dream I knew what was about to come, and I realized I could change the outcome. I could NOT suggest you take out the garbage. I could keep my mouth shut, and change the outcome, and you wouldn’t fall, and you wouldn’t die.

But in that moment in my dream, I realized that – if I truly loved you – I couldn’t try to change anything, because maybe, just maybe, the way you died was a blessing.

Something was wrong, you were having problems with your logic, and the pneumonitis shouldn’t have affected your mind that way. You were wasting away, and the doctor said later that the cancer had probably spread somewhere, but we never had the chance for the PET scan to find out. And I pictured you suffering more, weakening, possibly in pain, dying slowly and horribly, lingering in hospice….and I knew I had to let you die the way you did. I had to sacrifice the time I could have had with you for your sake. I had to let you “go gentle [and suddenly] into that good night.” And now I alone rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas, 1914 – 1953

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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


  1. Oh dear heart what beautiful words that I so identify with. The memories we share, that come with tears and smiles are the gifts that remain. Yes I can be happy now, only 10 more days until the 30, your fourth anniversary on Good Friday this year. But I can also cry like it was yesterday. Oh dear sister what a journey this is. We carry the sorrow of our lost and I pray my beloved walks in eternity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *