grief journeyI’m babysitting my two young grandsons for a four-day weekend while their folks are out of town. These two like all sorts of music. They may ask the Amazon Alexa to play Daft Punk, Justin Bieber, rap or hard rock, or at bedtime, just before I play Enya, they want to hear “My Heart Will Go On” from The Titanic.

But on this lazy Sunday afternoon, as I was enjoying some quiet time with them while we worked on a jigsaw puzzle, they asked me the name of that song about West Virginia so they could have Alexa play it. I’ve no idea where they heard this one, but I asked her to play “Country Roads,” by John Denver. As we listened, we all belted out the song together. It took me back to my teens when the song was popular, and reminded me of the other song I always liked, “Annie’s Song.” I haven’t heard it for years, so I asked Alexa to play it next.

“You fill up my senses like a night in a forest…” Denver sings. Oh, I remember hearing the song’s romantic lyrics as a teen and dreaming of someday finding a man who would love me enough to feel this way about me. Mind you, I was never a big fan of John Denver. I was into hard rock like Led Zepplin and Aerosmith, but my best friend loved him, so I became pretty familiar with the song, and it touched my heart. I longed to have a man love me as much as the lyrics portrayed. And, it took many, many years, but just before my 40th birthday, I found him!

You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain
Like a storm in the desert
Like a sleepy blue ocean
You fill up my senses
Come fill me again

Rick and I married in 1997, the year John Denver died. By then, I had half forgotten the song, and it wasn’t anything special to either of us. Rick sang karaoke and when he belted out, “You Are So Beautiful,” or “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,” and looked into my eyes across the room, I basked in the evidence of how much love he had for me. And for years, I was living the dream. Then, after only two decades together, he died.

So on this quiet afternoon with the boys, while they didn’t pay much attention to Annie’s Song, and had absolutely no idea of where their grandmother’s thoughts had wandered to, I remembered that time before Rick, when I longed for a love like his. And then came the part of the song that I had never really focused on before… let me drown in your laughter… let me die in your arms.

Come let me love you
Let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter
Let me die in your arms

It was a bit of a jolt. I doubt I’ve heard the song in the five years since Rick’s death. And, I realized not only had the dreams the song inspired in that teenage girl long ago come true, the ending has also come to pass. Rick loved me more than I had ever hoped a man would, gave me 20 years of all the romance I had longed for, then died in my arms.

I know, I’m a lucky woman. I was fortunate to have time to say goodbye: 10 months from cancer diagnosis to death. Not all widows get that. Sometimes I’m not sure if it was something to be thankful for or if it was a curse because I also had to watch him fade away before my eyes. I think I’ll look at it as having the good fortune to be reminded that our time was running out so we could make the most of every minute we had left. And that I was privileged to be present at his death, to be with him as he died in my arms.

And today, as I heard the lyrics again, those beautiful lyrics, I realized that not only had those romantic notions of my teens been fulfilled, but that I had also survived and remade my life after the dream was shattered. Then I stopped reminiscing, swallowed my tears, and asked my grandsons what song they wanted to hear next.


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