Why I Save Dad’s Voicemails

Dyane Oct. 2014


I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but I kept putting it off.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write about the topic, but more and more I found myself easily distracted.

(Thank you social media!  I’m blaming you!) 😉

I realized that the most inspiring time to reminisce would fall close to Halloween, my favorite day of the year.  I’ve loved Halloween ever since I was a little girl, and I’ve dressed up every year without fail – even during the bipolar depression years.

I’ve also been fascinated with books about the afterlife and near-death studies for decades.  I’ve read all of psychiatrist Dr. Raymond Moody’s works along with more contemporary authors such as Dr. Eben Alexander’s “Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife”.  I’ve never had any problem discussing thanatology (the study of death, made famous by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross) as well as paranormal issues with anyone.  My Dad, however, was the total opposite.  Despite our being very close, Dad couldn’t stand talking about death, especially as he grew older and more infirm.  (That was completely understandable!)  He made it clear that he was terrified to die, and there was no way I wanted to push the issue with him.

Despite Dad’s aversion to death, he did have fun at Halloween!  One year he bought dry ice, set up a spooky cauldron, and with my enthusiastic help we good-naturedly scared our many trick or treaters.   It was a wonderful evening that I’ll never forget. 

When I reached my mid-thirties, my father started having serious health problems aside from his bipolar disorder.  He and I spoke almost daily by phone since I lived several hundreds of miles away from him.  Of course I wasn’t always able to answer my cell phone, so Dad would leave long, often funny messages.  Instinct told me not to erase them all, and I saved a few of my favorite ones.  I knew someday I would be glad I saved them, and I was right.  

My Dad, who I considered one of my best friends, died six years ago at an assisted living facility without any family members at his side.  It is the biggest regret of my life that I was not there with him when he died.  Because of my reaction to his death, I had to be hospitalized and I missed his memorial service.  At the hospital, in utter desperation, I requested electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).  Ironically ECT never helped my Dad, but I credit it with saving my life.  

Perhaps he watched over me during the procedures.  

My mother thoughtfully videotaped Dad’s beautiful memorial service, complete with a string quartet of his colleagues and numerous eloquent, often humorous speakers.  Once I was strong enough, I was able to watch his service.  I’m still amazed by my mother’s strength during that time in particular, and I’ll always be grateful to her for recording his memorial.

Although it has been years since my father’s death, I still hold fast to his voicemail messages and I listen to them virtually anywhere.  The sounds are bittersweet.  I’d rather have Dad here in person so I could hear his resonant, loving voice once again call me “Little Dyane”, although I’m anything but little – I’m almost forty-five years old!  

I don’t listen to Dad as often as I used to, but when I do hear his messages they bring a smile to my face. I’m also lucky enough to have cassette tapes of his concerts that I can listen to on my old Suburu cassette player. (My father was a violinist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for thirty-nine years.)  While growing up, my bedroom was next to Dad’s practice room and I heard him practice for hours at a time almost every single day.  That’s what world-class violinists did and the discipline was ingrained into his soul.  The sound of his violin playing is almost as if he were speaking to me – it’s the next best thing to his messages.

It sounds macabre to save voicemails while a loved one is still alive. But knowing that someday life will change and these messages will become precious is worth any misgivings. The few years before Dad died I was depressed for the most part.  I was medicated, zombified and in constant despair, but at least I had the foresight to save Dad’s voicemails, and I always will be proud of myself for doing that.


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33 thoughts on “Why I Save Dad’s Voicemails

  1. Thank you for your beautiful comment! As a gifted musician yourself I know you appreciate my message!! Have a fantastic Halloween, Mihran!!! 🙂

  2. To me, a loved one is never dead as long as you remember them. Nothing wrong with keeping the memories that suit you! ❤

    • Thanks Raeyn! As usual, you’re right ;)!!! It’s such an easy thing to save these messages, and if something is easy, then I’m way more likely to do it, ha ha! Lazy me. I’m not sure how big a day Halloween is over there, but I hope your weekend is a great one. Take care! Dy 🙂

  3. Such a deep post Dyane. Saving voice mails while someone is alive may sound macabre to some people but to me it shows the extreme depth of love and a beautiful bond between a daughter and her father 🙂

    • You understood my post’s message perfectly, and with great compassion – I can no longer regard you as “insanelyconfused”…I prefer to think of you as one of the sanest people I’ve come across on the internet!

      Thanks for leaving me such a marvelous comment. I hope you enjoy your Halloween!!! 🙂

  4. This is so touching, Dyane. How beautiful this ode to your father is. I can picture him practicing and how soothing that must have been to hear. I can only imagine the pride you had for his talents and career accomplishments and how he must be so proud of you now too as he watches over you with love in his heart. Isn’t it amazing that you had the forsight to save those emails. Sometiems we just know. I am always here for you. Saving voicemails is wise, not macrabe at all by the way.

    • Thank you, thank you dear Wendy! OMG – Dad was the bomb when it came to the sounds he produced on his Italian violins that he loved so much – his Guadagnini and his Stradivarius. He liked to prop one of them up on our old couch in his practice room while taking a break. One of our Irish Setters would invariably jump up and sit upon that couch right next to the sixteenth or seventeenth century piece of (very expensive) wood! Dad was funny that way – maybe he didn’t use the best judgement sometimes – it could have been a bipolar thing – but in any case he had a great sense of humor, and he wasn’t a pompous musician at all. He made friends easily wherever he went…he befriended people from all walks of life.

      I love knowing you are there for me. I know you are. It’s really a gift and I know my Dad treasures the fact that you encourage me with my writing & with life in general, from wherever he’s hanging out these days. (ahem, Mrs. Long Island Medium – YO Theresa!!! Please let me win your contest for a free reading that I entered a bunch of times!!!!!) I have no shame when it comes for my adoration of that Caputo lady

      You’re right. Sometimes we just know about things.

      Speaking of knowing, in the coming year I think what I most want to work on (besides my BOOKY WOOK) is getting to know myself better, and going with my gut more often than not. It’s incredibly important to do that (my last post covers *that* topic! 😉 and going with our intuition/instinct is often overlooked in the name of people pleasing, isn’t it? I’m not going to become a major bitch, but I want to set more boundaries with people, and just pay more attention in general! It can be done!

      p.s. I LOVED your Halloween pumpkin!!!!!

  5. It is wonderful that you can have memories that are still so fresh to bring a emotional (if bittersweet) response to you. Cherish that always!

    • Thank you Vic! Yes, the happiness I get from hearing Dad’s voice totally outweighs the bitter part, as you can imagine. I appreciate your sweet comment so much!!!

  6. Dyane, it is very touching that you saved your father’s voicemails. Your post shows how crises like losing your father can trigger a severe breakdown.

    • After going through Dad’s death, I dread the death of anyone close to me. I hope I don’t fall apart again. I got through my mother-in-law’s death “well” ) a couple years ago. The hospital staff actually told me that they admired my strength & attitude in light of the situation…..but guess what? I was hypomanic, and even death & watching my husband in deep pain couldn’t touch me back then. Now that I’m stable it’s a very different situation, and I’m scared shitless.

      • Being scared shitless doesn’t help. Giving yourself some slack and understanding that death may trigger you and that you must take extra good care of yourself and rally your resources does help. Be aware, not afraid.

      • I know it’s important to make sure to have a support network of family, friends and professionals firmly in place before a loss of such magnitude happens. But I am and I will be afraid. I know I’ll be deeply affected in some way when my Mom (almost 80) goes, but I’ll do all I can to react to a much lesser degree than with my Dad. Unless one has experienced the death of a beloved parent, one cannot know what it’s like to lose a parent. It’s kind of like childbirth….unless you go through it, you simply can’t know how it feels on a soul level. Now, some people have easy childbirths and some don’t. So the argument follows that a death could have very different effects upon a person. Maybe I’m creating a self-fulfilling prophecy by expecting to react badly. I think I’ll start talking about it with my therapist and pdoc this week! They both would be wonderful to discuss these issues with; my pdoc is very religious (a practicing Christian) and my therapist is very spiritual. A nice balance. xo

      • I stand corrected. Bravery is not the absence of fear, but facing fear straight on. That you do daily. When any catastrophic event hits, count me as someone you can call for support. I’d even fly up to visit you inpatient, or outpatient, whatever you need. You are right to know yourself and to realize that the loss of a parent can be catastrophic. In fact, my blogging began as a hypomanic reaction to my father-in-law being hospitalized with sepsis and multiple organ failure. The family was told that he was not expected to survive the first 48 hours. Not only do I love my in-laws, and feared the loss of my beloved father-in-law, but it brought up my fears regarding loss and aging of my own parents. Forgive me my insensitivity.

      • You were not insensitive! I know without a smidgen of doubt that you’re totally looking out for my best interests!

        You are my real, honest-to-God, non-toxic, sushi & dark chocolate-loving friend.

        The fact that you’ve offered to visit me if I’m hospitalized is so wonderful – I can barely wrap my head around your kindness, but I *will* let Craig know about your offer now, while my mind is clear, & I’ll give him your contact info. Thank you SO much.

        A few months ago my friend Barb wisely suggested to me to create such a list, and she too offered to be on it. She said that had she known in the past I had been hospitalized she would have visited, and/or she would have helped Craig in making phone calls.

        I forgot that your blogging began the way it did, and that’s amazing that your father-in-law survived such a horrendous physical ordeal. I have him to thank for leading you in such a way to blogging…I’m so grateful you’re in my life, Kitt, and no forgiveness is needed whatsoever. I care about you very much and I’d come down there to see you, if, God forbid, you needed me.

        On a much brighter note, we have Feb. to look forward to and I’ll work very hard on staying the hell out of the hospital between now and then. I want to see you, Walker and attend the conference!!!!!! xoxo

  7. A wonderful tribute….and describes a love and connection that you have and will always have.

    • **Thank you**!!!

      It wasn’t easy growing up with a father who had severe bipolar disorder & who became a regular at UCLA’s NPI. A *lot* of shit went down over the years as you can imagine. Dad made a vase during one visit and I joked that it was a $10,000 (butt-ugly) vase. He had a strong sense of humor, so he was able to take the joke.

      It sounds cliche, but time has softened the bad memories, but not the good memories, and I’m so thankful for that.


  8. I wish I had some of my bipolar daddy’s unique voice messages saved. They were anything but typical! But I do have many self-make cassette tapes he’d recorded of songs he wrote over the years, some tapes from as far back as when I was about four years old.

    • That’s awesome, Supermommyof twins, that you still have cassette tapes of your father’s songs going far back – wow! You and I are lucky to have such things! xo

  9. What an accomplished and handsome dad you had! You look a lot like him. Such a poignant, sweet post. Loved it. You are very strong and brave and very admirable. I still have my moms address and phone number in my contacts. I wish I had recorded her message on her answering machine.

  10. What beautiful tribute. My father died before cell phones and voicemails were an everyday thing, so I don’t have any but I would love to. I recently discovered Voxer, an app that works like a walkie-talkie. Once of my closest friends died last year and everyday I wish I had messages with her voice. I rarely delete my “Voxes” for this reason now — I want to be able to hear the voices of those I love forever.

    • I thought I replied to your lovely comment, Grief Happens – forgive me! I’ve never head of Voxer before, so I’m glad you gave me the heads-up about it. I’m so sorry about the loss of your close friend…and I’m glad you don’t usually delete those Voxes now! take care, & thanks so much for reading my post. I love your blog and it’s a honor to have you stop by here.

  11. When I was sorting out and tossing things, I saved some of my mother’s cards and letters for the same reason. Glad you had the foresight to save them.

    • My deepest condolences about the loss of your mother, athling2001. The loss of a parent is enormous, isn’t it? I’m happy to know you saved some of her cards/letters.

      Thanks for coming to my blog and for the follow, by the way. I appreciate it so much and I’ll be sure to check out your blog very soon!

  12. Listening to the voice of a loved one gone is still very hard for me. My parents both made recordable storybooks for Blondie; whenever she opens the one my dad made, I have to leave the room to wipe the tears. But I do know what you mean. In time the voice will bring an old warmth back to life rather than douse it. I just have to be patient.

    It’s really cool to read such a touching moment with your dad. Somewhere in all the VHS home movies, there’s a brief segment of me dressed in a batman shirt and mask and panthose–nope,no pants. I’ve got my She-Ra shield and sword, and I’m addressing my dad as…was he Alfred?…might’ve been…anyway, we had to go get The Joker. What inspired my dad to videotape me at that moment is beyond me, but I’m glad he did. It’s quirky father/daughter moments like that which need to be preserved, so that when our memories grow old and brittle, we can find them again with the spark of memento.

    • How wonderful that your parents made those recordable storybooks! If my father had made one, I’d do the same as you did if one of the girls listened to it. Time does help – it has been eight years now. I feel more numb about it, but I actually don’t like state that one bit.

      I’m not sure if you knew I had an American Eskimo dog named She-Ra! I spelled it Shera, but her name was inspired by the cartoon. That’s pretty funny your father videotaped you dressed up sans pants! It’s sweet to think that he found that moment worth recording for posterity. 😉

      • Me, too. 🙂 Our video camera had to be connected to a VCR to record, which meant hauling that thing around in a satchel. And it was heavy! He got all that together just to record me sans pants in a She-Ra mask.
        Dads. They’re pretty cool. 🙂
        a dog named Shera! Neat! We’re looking forward to having a family dog, especially since Bo and I both had dogs when we were kids. But first, we need to make sure all the humans of the house know how to use a toilet. 🙂

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