If Heaven Exists, I Know You’re There

October 18th, 2023 was our first day without you in thirteen years.

For thirteen years I would say good morning to you as I opened your crate and buckled your collar around your neck to take you for your morning walk.


It was never really much of a walk. You’d step out of the house, begrudgingly do what you needed to do and lumber back inside to await your breakfast and return to a soft pillow.

For thirteen years we were always aware of your whereabouts. It wasn’t exactly difficult. You weren’t quiet in anything you did. You were constantly snuffling around the kitchen in search of dropped morsels. I would hear your nails tap-tapping on the hardwood attempting to extract a goldfish cracker from underneath my living room chair.

Most of the time, though, you were snoozing in whatever area of the house had the most direct sunlight, which you would follow from room to room.

You’d sleep and snore. You’d snore even when you were awake.

For thirteen years I knew where you were and what you were doing at every minute of every day. Now that you’re gone, I realize the snoring is what I miss the most.

The house is so quiet without you.

For thirteen years your constant snoring was a metronome for our life. No matter where we lived, no matter what we did for work, no matter who came and went, no matter what happened that day, you were the constant. You were always there for us, laying your big head on our laps and peacefully snoring away.

You were right there next to me when I found out my dad died. You were in the front row when Kara and I got married. You would rest your head on Kara’s stomach when she was pregnant with both boys. I’m convinced that’s why your snoring never bothered them. They were listening to it before they were even born.

You comforted us when we were sick. You protected us.

You brought smiles to everyone’s faces. There was a light and a love within you that I had never experienced before. Before I ever had kids, you taught me what unconditional love looked like.

But now there’s no more snoring.

There’s no more snuffling in the kitchen. There are no more tap-tapping nails on the hardwood. There’s a stillness to my life that I am not used to.

In the evenings I feel lost. For thirteen years, I’d walk you one last time before going to bed. I’d then get you settled in your crate and kiss you and tell you how much I loved you. You’d be snoring before I even turned out the light.

But now, I don’t know what to do in the evenings. I sometimes just wander through the house looking at pictures of you on the wall when everyone else has already gone to bed, wishing you were still here. I still jiggle the lock on your crate just to hear the familiar jingle I heard every night for thirteen years. Just something to break the silence and disrupt that awful stillness.

The sadness comes in waves. I’ll hear something in the other room and, forgetting everything for a second, think it’s you. I’ll absentmindedly cut a few extra little pieces of pork and then remember that there isn’t a bowl on the floor anymore to drop them into. I still think “I need to get home to walk Gracie”, and then remember I have all the time in the world.

I don’t want these feelings, these muscle memories, that have been built up in my body for thirteen years to go away, though. I feel like if I start to get used to you not being here… if you not being here starts to feel “normal”… then I’ll have lost yet another piece of you.

I don’t have anything left of you to hang on to, so I need to hang on to my grief.

On October 18th, I felt like I wanted to put the brakes on the entire world. I wanted the planet to stop spinning for everyone, since that’s what it felt like for me. It was our first day of venturing through our lives without you. It felt like we were going on a long trip and leaving you behind. It felt like we were paddling out into the ocean and leaving you on shore. I wanted to shout “Wait! Wait! You have to come with us! We can’t leave you!”

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. We didn’t know what our family looked like without you. And now that you’re gone, we all feel like a vital piece of us is missing.

We told the boys that evening when they got home from school. They cried. They were confused. They went looking for you in other rooms of the house.

Even though they were sad, they weren’t surprised. You had been very sick for a long time and we had been prepping them for what we knew was going to happen any day. But even when you think you’re prepared for something like that, it still knocks you off balance in a way you don’t expect. It’s like anticipating a punch in the stomach and getting shoved from behind.  

I hope wherever you are now is peaceful and happy. It breaks my heart to know that that place, wherever it is, is away from us because being near us was what made you the happiest. I guess I’m also being a little selfish in wanting you with me always.

If Heaven does actually exist, then I know you’re there. You must be.

You loved us so wholly and completely and we loved you as wholly and completely as we were able, being the flawed humans we are.

Now that we must carry on without you, I don’t want you to worry about us. We will be ok. We will miss you every day, but we will be ok. You can rest easy knowing that your family will always bask in the warmth of the love you gave us for those thirteen years. That love was so much and so pure that it will sustain us forever. Even so, I wish we could have more of it.

Also know that you will never be forgotten. Until we are able to see each other again… until we are able to snuggle and fall asleep with you snoring on my cheek again… we will raise a glass to you at the dinner table every night, we will hang your stocking over the fireplace at Christmastime, your picture will aways be on the mantel, and your leash will always be by the front door.

Gracie, thank you for all the joy and light you brought into our lives. We love you with all our hearts and that will never, ever change.

Thirteen years was a long time, but it wasn’t long enough.

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