I picked up Madeline’s ashes Monday morning. It’s a month today since we said goodbye. I saw Angie when I was waiting for the urn. Angie was with us on Madeline’s last afternoon, assisting Dr. Morris. She gave me a soft smile and asked the same thing everyone seems to ask lately: “How’re you guys doing?” And I gave the same answer that I’ve been giving for a couple weeks: “It’s a big change, but we’re doing Okay.” Okay. “It’s quiet, huh?”, she asked. Yeah, quiet.

“Okay” has felt like an inadequate but honest answer. We’re sad but moving through life with some sense of normalcy. Except when we’re not and it feels overwhelming, still. And it’s difficult to know whether people want – and are able – to hear about the times when it’s overwhelming. When Angie honed in on the quiet, though, it felt like “okay” didn’t nearly suffice.

How am I? I’m devastated, lost, and untethered. I wake up in the middle of the night seized by fear when I can’t hear Maddie’s snoring. My morning routine, previously punctuated by walking her, feels difficult to predict now. Some mornings I have more than an hour to kill before work, others I oversleep and bewilderingly still make it to work on time. When I see dogs at work, I don’t feel the rush of affection I did a month ago, only a tightening in my chest and an irrational feeling of injustice. The house is quiet when I get home, and it’s starting to smell different to me. It simultaneously feels like our refuge from people who expect things to truly be okay and normal, and a foreign place where we’re not quite at home without her. I wake up on the weekends to a cold apartment, and I sit on the couch, chilly, reading without her curled up next to me, nose tucked under tail. And I walk through the neighborhood and feel loss on every block she used to pull me down, weaving and sniffing as we went.

When I go home this evening after work, there will be no one to greet me. I’ll get a glass of water and sit on the sofa, staring at her urn, feeling the silence as both a respite from the day and an ache that doesn’t seem to be fading.

I’m doing okay.