How Talking to the Dead Dislodged Some of My Sorrow
Closeup of the android voicemail icon with a badge showing 7 new voice messages seen on a Google Pixel 4a smartphone.

I began leaving voice-mail messages for my mother about a month after she died. It was February last year, during some of the darkest days of the pandemic for my family. My teenage daughters were mourning their grandmother while largely cut off from their friends and school. My husband and I were also struggling, drifting apart while cooped up in the same house together. And in my determination not to crumble in front of my girls when their worlds were already spinning out, I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, open the door for my own grief. It’s as if it were stuck deep in my chest, unable to find the space to surface.

Just after my mother died, my younger sister reminded me that my mom’s voice was still on the outgoing message of her cellphone, which no one had yet disconnected. So, one afternoon while walking my dog in an open field, I dialed the number and heard her say, “Please leave me a message after the tone.” They were typical words, of course. But also so much my mom — her voice clear, steady, to-the-point. And when the phone beeped, I began talking, and then sobbing for the first time since her funeral.

Read more or listen to the audio in the New York Times.

Featured image: Tada Images / Shutterstock. Portland, OR, USA – Dec 22, 2021: Closeup of the android voicemail icon with a badge showing 7 new voice messages seen on a Google Pixel 4a smartphone.

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