The Ikea Furniture

Dear Rick,

Remember when we picked out the new living room furniture together? It was a little more than a year before you died. I took photos. The date on the pictures is May 22, 2016 – around 12:30 pm. We didn’t even have a clue about what was ahead as we enjoyed ourselves on that happy day. We didn’t know that in a few short months – in September – the medical nightmare would begin.

It was a Sunday and we were at Ikea. Remember all those trips to Ikea when we lived in Maryland? We so enjoyed going there, seeing the cool decorating ideas, the trendy furniture, the candles and stemware and baskets and art. You especially liked their big, big art prints. Unfortunately, we never had enough wall space in our small homes to hold all of the ones you liked.

You got your giant Reno print there. The one in your office. And the living room abstract art that used to fit so beautifully over the maple fireplace that we built in the family room in Maryland now hangs in our Michigan living room. The giant red poppy-like flower is still in our dining area.

Ikea and Home Depot played such a large part in our marriage. We were both thrilled when Ikea came to Canton. We loved going to that store. We dreamed up ideas at Ikea and then we created them with the tools and resources from Home Depot. I’ve been to both stores without you now. I sobbed for hours when I returned home from each venture.

But oh, the memories…wandering the aisles, planning our future, creating our perfect world, our safe haven, our love nest. Each home, each project, each day spent working with you to achieve our goals created such great memories, memories for me to cry over now.

Even the mid-project arguments are special to me. We came, we fought, we conquered – and we stayed together, in love for eternity.

Except it wasn’t for eternity, was it?

Was it?

Are you here with me now?

I read a great quote on a post in my Facebook widows’ group:

The love is still there. You’re just in different places.

I keep looking for signs of you, and thinking I’m seeing them. I long to be with you so much, to hear your giant laugh, to feel your massive arms around me, squeezing me too tightly. To match wits with you, to annoy you, to just be.

So today, on a Sunday in December, four months after your death, I look at pictures from the spring before our nightmare began, before your body betrayed you – and me. We didn’t buy the furniture that day, because we wanted to think over our priorities. Did we want to spend a thousand dollars on furniture?, or another trip?, or a MacBook?, or…a million other things we wanted.

We didn’t buy it once you were diagnosed, because we foresaw some hard living ahead. As the consummate planner, I made you bring up the two ugly recliners from the basement in advance of the chemo, and the puking, and worse. We agreed it wasn’t a great time to buy new furniture.

After the chemo, when you went into remission in February of the next year, we decided the furniture still wasn’t a priority; the trip to Florida was a much better investment – and oh, honey, it was! Then we got the bonus trip back, courtesy of Jo. Those five weeks we had together, you wandering around in the beautiful sunshiny weather by day (as you so loved to do), then coming home to the condo to nap in the next room, while I worked on my laptop – sometimes taking a break to join you in bed. Both of us spending each evening eating and drinking at outdoor venues, viewing the sunset every night on the beach, returning to the condo to cuddle up on the couch and watch TV – both trips were so awesome. You were so happy. We were so in love.

So, that’s all gone now.

I’m alone in our world. It’s a cold December day. No more sunshine in my life, no more cuddling, caressing, dreaming, sharing, laughing. I’ve decided I must buy the furniture – now, before it’s too late, before Ikea discontinues it, and it slips through my fingers.

I’ll finish that plan we began in May 2016, on that happy Sunday, one of many happy Sundays, and every time I sit on the sofa or loveseat, I’ll know we picked it out together, and I’ll feel you next to me just a little, one more time.

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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