Three firsts

Rick has been gone three months. In the past two days, I made it through three firsts: I went to get biopsy results alone (uterine cancer scare), I celebrated my birthday, and, of course, Thanksgiving. I have so many things to be thankful for: the biopsy results were good, and my family and friends were supportive and wonderful on my birthday. My stepkids and their children came to Thanksgiving and there is no doubt that we are still family. Rick must have been delighted to see us all together yesterday.

And then they left. The door shut and I began to sob as if he had just died, and my heart felt like it was shattering all over again. I completely fell apart and spent hours just looking at pictures and crying, almost like the first horrible week after he died.

Today, I looked for this poem that my friend sent me when he died. I try to be upbeat and move on, but these lines describe how I feel perfectly. I will do my best to rebuild my life, and I will put on my positive front for the world, but deep inside, I will always always feel like this:

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

“Stop All the Clocks” by WH Auden

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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