Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lost voices

There was an interesting little story in yesterday's news about an elderly gentleman in New York state whose wife passed away in 2005. Catherine Whiting had left a voicemail message on their answering service before she died and her husband Charles had listened to it each day since her death, finding comfort in the sound of her voice. When their service was upgraded however, the message was lost. After hearing his story, the phone company launched a database search and were able to retrieve the digital recording of Catherine Whiting's voice. The wonders of digital technology.

Several days after Chris passed away, I was going through old messages on our answering machine and there was one from Chris that he had left only a few days before he died. Still stunned from his sudden death, I remember the shock of hearing his voice. I can't even describe how bizarre and wonderful it was to hear his warm voice streaming out of that little silver box, wrapping me in comfort and slapping me in the face all at the same time. It was a breezy, affectionate little message like any other he had left a thousand times before. He signed off - like always - saying "love you".

That message was lost to me several weeks afterwards when our power went out for a brief time. The moment it happened I knew that Chris' voice was gone. I was so angry, so frustrated that a brief accident of lost electrical current could snatch away that tiny precious moment of intimacy Chris left to me. I remember yelling at the answering machine when the power came back on, viciously pouring all my frustration and anger over it's ability to come back to life when Chris could not. Stupid *#^% machine!!

When I was emptying out my parents' house after they had to move into a nursing home, I found a reel to reel recording of speeches made at their wedding reception. What a wonderful moment, holding that treasure from the past in my hands. Not even knowing of its existence! I had a CD copy made and now I can listen to the voices of my Grandpa Charles, my uncle Doug, and my dad - all of them now passed away. Hearing their voices makes my memories of them so much more real.

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