Unwelcome Silence

Yesterday we had to say goodbye to our four-legged companion and friend Giselle. She became the center point of our lives for many years, including giving us love and compassion during some of the hardest parts of our life together (and when our support system collapsed around us). She deserved to walk the Rainbow Bridge after a good night and a good morning, something not guaranteed to happen again given her cancer.

Yesterday Nora and I got to spend the day together, embracing, crying, deciding to throw everything of hers away and then, wisely, deciding to keep it in an opaque box for when we are ready to welcome another companion into our home. We spent time walking (something Giselle could not do her last few weeks), time laughing about her weirdness, reminiscing how hard the first month with her was. We spent the day mourning and worrying about nothing but mourning.

Today, Nora went to work, and I worked from home because of the snow. I sat on the couch, preparing to work, and I heard nothing. Absolutely nothing. I struggle with silence in general, but this was different. For 6 years Giselle’s breathing through her slightly brachycephalic snout gave a quiet noise to a silent space.

The moment I sat down today, nothing in the house made any noise. The furnace had clicked off, the dehumidifier too. The fridge compressor did not run, I did not forget to turn the vent fan off after my shower, the rain had slowed enough that I did not hear it hitting the roof. The house had no noise at all for the first time in the four years we lived here (whenever I had dropped Giselle off at the sitter, I always either ran around packing for whatever trip we had planned or immediately turned the TV on).

Or maybe I just noticed it for the first time because I did not welcome the silence. I did not want the silence. The silence settled heavy in my chest and forced its weight upon me.

But for a moment I paused, not in exhaustion or boredom or insolence but because I absolutely could not do anything but sit in the silence of a house who had lost its companion.

The moment did not last terribly long — a couple of minutes at most — but in that moment I realized, for maybe the 400th time over the past month, how important her presence and life was to us, just in a different way. Even the days she stayed in the hospital her presence sat here and I did not experience such empty silence until today, her things packed away, her pictures not scrolling on the TV, her slightly louder than silent breathing no longer present.

I hated that silence, but I am thankful for it. It forced me to pause. I had to stop and just sit with her loss, something I did not want to do but I needed to do. After that I could pull the album of her pictures up and remember why she meant so much to us. After that I could see her and hurt just a small bit less.

Her little bandana said, “Please pet me.”

I hate unwelcome silence, but I am thankful for it.

Peace,
— Robby