This past Tuesday was our 25th wedding anniversary and I celebrated alone, sitting under the windchimes in my gazebo. A small portion of Rick’s ashes are in the chimes, so I always feel like he’s with me when I sit there. It was his favorite place to sit in the evenings, so I thought it was the perfect location to put his ashes after he died five years ago. 

On the night of our anniversary, I lit the twinkle lights and the candles (and the tabletop citronella tiki torch, because mosquitos seem to find me incredibly tasty). Then I poured myself a glass of cabernet and sat with him awhile. We talked over old times, and I updated him on my recent dating life. 

In my possibly quirky viewpoint, Rick actually “met” both of the men I became involved with in the past three years I’ve been dating. At some point, each of them sat with me under the gazebo during our courtships, and I told them about the ashes in the windchimes. One didn’t have much to say about it. The other addressed Rick directly. He looked up at the chimes and introduced himself, and then asked him, “Please give me some advice. How do you handle this woman?”

I thought that was amusing since Rick often told me (in feigned frustration), “You don’t ever follow the rules!” when I did something he considered out of line, like drink wine directly from the bottle or some other “out of bounds” behavior.  For that reason, he laughingly considered me “hard to handle.” So I’m sure if he could’ve communicated, he would’ve had some advice for the poor guy.

Both of those short-lived relationships are over now. Neither one loved or treated me as well as Rick did. And as I sat under the gazebo on our anniversary, I told him that. I told him he may have jinxed me for life from finding someone who cared about me as deeply or showed it so perfectly. I recently read a quote in a powerful essay written by a widow coming to terms with her husband’s death. It was a simple few lines, but the words spoke volumes to me:

“I missed his presence, his malty smell and whiskery face, his grouchy edge. His ability to recognize my edge.” 

Rick didn’t have a “malty smell,” but he sometimes had a whiskery face, and he often had a grouchy edge. However, the words that resonated the most with me were… “his ability to recognize my edge.” Because he did. He knew me inside and out. He could have passed an exam on my moods, likes, dislikes, and peccadillos with flying colors because he cared enough to know every facet of me (and love me anyway).  

So who better to discuss my current dating situation with? I feel like Rick is watching me, sometimes amused at my dumb choices, sometimes angry at the way I’ve allowed myself to be treated by one man or another. But I always feel he’s supporting me, cheering me on, hoping I’ll find happiness with a partner he deems worthy of me.

In the five years he’s been gone, I’ve coped with his death and have been able to reconstruct my life and the idea of a new future without him. I retired at the beginning of the month, so I’m starting a new phase of life, one that won’t include those plans Rick and I made as we sat out on the deck in years gone by. I’ve come to terms with being alone, made new plans, and now I’m embarking on those golden years without him. But, of course, I still wish none of that was true.

I wish I could still sit under the gazebo with the man who constructed it, the man who built the deck it sits upon, and then strung up the blue twinkle lights that makes it such a romantic setting. I wish that man was here to recite the love poem he memorized, as he did on anniversaries gone by – before he’d rise, take my hand, and dance with me in the moonlight. I wish we were celebrating this special anniversary together. 

But he’s not here, so on the 25th anniversary of the day we became one, I raised my glass towards the windchimes that hold a small portion of the remains of the flesh and blood man, and I said a toast to his spirit and the love he had for me. 

Happy 25th anniversary, Big Fella! Thank you for loving me.


The quote was from “Siri Tells A Joke,” by Debra Gwarney in the July 2022 issue of The Sun magazine. 


On August 13, 2017, I lost the love of my life. Rick Palmer and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary one month before he died at age 63 of complications from treatments for small cell lung cancer. He was my partner and soulmate, the love I had been looking for and finally found at age 40.

Rick was a talented writer and web designer and, in 2002, we began our own web and print design business. We worked together building the business and enjoyed traveling, writing, and playing together. Our dream was to spend our golden years together doing more of the same, but in the ten months from diagnosis to death, that dream shattered.

After Rick’s death, I quickly realized that the enormity of his loss was too much for me to handle on my own, so I began grief therapy. I also began writing through my grief in a journal of feelings, thoughts, memories, and poetry. As I navigate my new life alone, I share my journey and my efforts towards creating my “new normal” on my personal blog: The Writing Widow. I’m also on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

I recently published two books about my grief journey: my poetry book, I Wanted to Grow Old With You: A Widow's First Year of Grief in Poetry, and compilation of my blog posts A Widow's Words: Grief, Reflection, Prose, and Poetry - The First Year." Both books are available in print and Kindle versions on