You died when I left the room

This morning I woke up, and foolishly went to the widows’ support group on FB. A woman mentioned the theory that our loved ones wait until we leave to die. They hold on until that time, then you may go to get a drink of water, take a bathroom break, and that’s the time that they die.

I immediately thought of you dying. The code blue, the paddles. I had left your room and was making a phone call. It had only just occurred to me (with a vengeance) that you were possibly going to die.

It’s odd, because I felt it. I felt it the night before when I left to go home and get some sleep. How often did I stay, sleeping in a chair overnight, just to keep you safe? But, no, the nurse came in for the night shift, they told me you had spiked a fever, you were uncomfortable, and I kissed you and left.

I don’t know what I was thinking. Was it was sort of a self-preservation thing? I remember thinking that I needed sleep because the next day was going to be a tough one.

I cried a lot that night. I texted you, even though I knew there would be no response. You were sedated and intubated and wouldn’t see the texts, but I had to pretend that there was a connection between us – as there had been nearly continuously since the night we met.

So I texted you at bedtime, then texted you when I woke up. I told you I was coming. You were oblivious. You were sedated and intubated, so there was no way I could actually get through to you. But I thought you’d get my message – telepathically – that our bond was so strong, you’d hear me somehow. I think you did.

I was overwhelmed with a premonition – a vague, unnamed feeling in my gut that this “wasn’t going to be a good day.”

Yet, still, as I sat by your bedside that morning, as the doctors continued to stream in with bad report after bad report, it still didn’t really sink in that you were going to die.

At one odd moment, I glanced toward the calendar, and then thought, NO. I don’t want to see the date. I don’t want to make this date significant. As if ignoring the number would mean you would live. As if ignoring the number meant I wouldn’t have it etched in my memory forever: August 13, 2017, the day my beloved died.


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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