“Your voicemail box contains outdated messages that will soon be deleted if not saved. To delete, press 7; to save, press 9…”
I received the message on my cell phone at 4:30 this morning, on my way into work. I pressed 9, yet again. My biggest fear is that I will one day mistakenly press 7 and the message will be gone forever. “Hi Kelly, this is your Mom, it’s Sunday afternoon…Happy New Year to you guys. We’re just taking it easy today, I’ve caught a bit of a cold…I love you guys, and hope to see you before too long. Maybe we can get together pretty soon. Love you bunches.”
This is the last message I received from my mom. She passed away March 11th of this year. It’s been almost 3 months, and I still have trouble saying it out loud. Complications of heart failure and stroke eventually took her out of my life. There was no service, no obituary, and as of yet, no plans for a celebration of life.
She left me with many things: amongst them are an abundance of memories, some bad, but mostly good; some material things, including numerous collectibles she had found at garage sales and thought I would enjoy (she was right most of the time); and a voice message that I can’t bear to delete.
With all the bells and whistles cellphone services offer these days, apparently being able to download a voicemail message onto a computer isn’t feasible, at least not with my LG. I still have hope, however; with my radio job I have access to different types of recording devices, so there may still be a way to preserve my mother’s last message. It’s just that friendly reminder from my voicemail, that some older messages may be automatically deleted if I don’t (re)save them, that looms large and jolts me into taking some sort of action.
(The bright side is the message also jolted me into writing my first piece for my “40 Days of Writing” project. Inspiration comes in many forms)
I tell myself that I cannot possibly be the only person who has pressed 9, over and over again, in hopes of preserving a precious voicemail from someone who has since passed away. In a sense it reminds me of how, years ago, my friend Laura kept a package of Ballpark Franks in her freezer. Her brother had brought them to a barbecue at her house, but they never got around to cooking them, so she put them in the freezer for another time. Her brother passed away suddenly, two weeks later. Months, possibly even a year later, and Laura still had those franks in her freezer, unable to bring herself to throw them out. They were a metaphor of that last connection Laura had with her brother before his death.
The same can be said of this last voicemail message from my mom. Although I had spoken with her numerous times, and seen her twice since the message, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it is The Last Voicemail Message From Her. The funny things is, there are so many “last of’s” and “last times” where my mother is concerned, it can be too overwhelming to get a handle on even a fraction of them.
But this “last time” is special, as it is her familiar voice coming through, speaking somewhat awkwardly (she never did feel comfortable leaving messages), then signing off with her usual expression of love. I’ve only been able to listen to it in its entirety a few times; but each time, as I gaze down at the cell phone in my hand, carefully, mindfully making sure I don’t hit 7, I’m reminded of the last time I held her hand, knowing she didn’t have much more time on this earth. “Pressing 9” couldn’t save her under those circumstances.
This I have control of, for the most part. Yes, there is the possibility of a technological glitch, which could wipe away the message; I could have my purse stolen with my phone in it; I could accidentally hit 7 instead of 9.
But for now, as I continue with my grieving phase, to intentionally hit 7 would be like conscientiously letting her slip out of my life again, only through a different portal. I’m not up for it, and may never be. So until I come up with some technological way to preserve her last message (through MP3, WAV file, etc.), I’ll just keep hitting 9, whenever prompted. She would totally get it, and more than likely appreciate my honoring her this way.