Monthly Archives: October 2013

Saving Voice Messages from Loved Ones- Forever

Do you have a voice message of someone you love and want to keep it permanently?  Technology now exists to easily transfer a voice message that is easy and inexpensive. Yet stories persist of sudden losses of these treasured messages when carriers upgrade and irrevocably delete these.

After the car crash that killed 19-year-old Alexis on Mother’s Day, Lisa Moore would call her daughter’s cell phone and listen to her greeting. Sometimes she also left a message, telling her how much she loved her.  In an AP article by Tom Coyne, she says, “I know it sounds crazy, but it was like we had a conversation and then I would be better.” Actually, many families speak of how much comfort they receive from still hearing the voice of one they love. In five years, Lisa’s family spent $1700 to keep their daughter’s cellphone service to preserve her voice.  Then one day her daughter’s voice that provided solace was silenced. “I just relived this all over again, because this part of me was just ripped out again.  It was gone….I’ll never hear her voice again.”  Lisa discovered the deletion when she called the number after dreaming her daughter was alive in a hospital.   The family stored her damaged phone in a safe, so they missed the carrier’s notification to customers that it would be moving voice mail users to a different platform.

A Sprint upgrade also cost Angela Rivera a greeting from her husband Major Eduardo Caraveo, one of 13 people killed during the Fort Hood shootings in Texas in 2009.  She had paid to keep the phone to hear her husband’s voice and so her son, John Paul, who was 2 at the time of the shooting, could someday know his father’s voice. “Now he will never hear his dad’s voice.”  Such added sorrow can be avoided and families don’t need to pay to keep phone service.

 

SOLUTIONS EXIST

Companies now offer a service to transfer voice messages to permanent files for under $30.  Verizon Wireless recommends CBW Productions and list this under Frequently Asked Questions about voicemail on their website.  I found Voicemails Forever (www.voicemailsforever.com), and like CBW Productions, they can transfer messages to a CD or MP3 player.  With simple instructions, you can do this yourself, or if you prefer, Voicemail Forever even offers a Voicemail Valet who will do this for you for $10 more at $29.99. Computer savvy users will also find instructions on CNET on how to use a free download called Audacity to make the transfer to one’s computer.

Krista with puppy Choclo in Bolivia

Krista with puppy Choclo in Bolivia

 

I remember how much hearing the sound of our 25-year-old daughter’s voice meant after she died in Bolivia when a bus plunged over a cliff.  A few weeks after her death, my husband and I traveled 6000 miles with Aaron, her husband, to their home in Bañado de la Cruz. They were on a three-year volunteer assignment in a remote river valley, and we didn’t want him to be without family as he closed up their one room adobe home so filled with memories.

The evening we arrived, Aaron discovered a tape recording she planned to mail to us for our 30th wedding anniversary.  “A creation from your creation,” she began. Her buoyant voice permeated the room as we listened closely to her tales of their first few weeks.  It included stories of a recent work project hosting high school students from a Saskatchewan, Canada church who helped villagers build 11 dry latrines, a low-tech-high-sanitation toilet.

With high enthusiasm, she mentioned, “The families fed them and were incredibly generous.  To see 20 North Americans working on latrines with the Bolivian families, building relationships and learning about another culture was wonderful.  For a 15-year-old to realize not everyone has MTV can be life shaping.”

She ended with “I’m in awe of the beauty here.  I love life and am thankful you gave it to me.”  Hearing the joie de vivre in her voice seemed so natural, I felt that if I turned my heart I might see her walk through the front door.

As I read the stories of families distraught over the loss of voice messages, it makes me want to transfer this tape to something more permanent too!  Tape recorders like she produced this on are also obsolete. Technology seems like a catch-22; we’re fortunate at the wondrous ways memories can now be kept alive.  But we need to stay abreast of changes in a continually evolving world.

 

 

 

Seeking Solace through Technology during Bereavement

Still hearing the voice of a loved one who dies often proves comforting.

Bill Pence recently shared a story from the last months of his daughter’s life when her doctor asked gently, “What is your greatest fear?”  This mother of two young children didn’t hesitate as she responded, “that my children will forget me.”  Her answer gave this grieving father a gift as he saw a tangible way he could help Molly as she endured the ravages of metastatic melanoma.   A Cal Tech graduate, he said, “Honey, your kids are growing up in a world of computers, websites and virtual images.  We can put your voice on a website and you can leave them your thoughts and messages on anything…on friendship, college, dating or anything kids are curious about. I will take care of the rest.  I can do it for you.”

He told me,  “I imagined my grandchildren waiting anxiously for fresh messages to pop up on their private website, a multiyear stream of reminders of their mother’s love, like getting loving phone calls several times a year, insurance that they would never forget her.’  Molly understood and said, “Let’s do it.”

For the last weeks of her life, they collaborated with a list of questions she thought might be important some day for her son, four-year-old Max and eight-year-old daughter Remy. They chose 63 questions and sqribbled them on index cards.  For an hour or so in the afternoons, boosted by oxygen and Fentanyl, his daughter was comfortable and alert enough to work on their  project.            Boy & Girl Children Using Laptop Computer at Home

Questions like:  “How do I be a good friend?”

She responded, “Be kind, consider their point of view.  Don’t gossip.  Be trustworthy.  Be fun!”

“Will you be watching over me?”  Her response?  “I’m not sure.  But I believe in Heaven.  I believe I’ll be with you aways.  When you need me, hold still, listen and maybe you will hear me.  And also listen for yourself–the answers are within you.”

Molly directed a long answer to her daughter for the question, “How were we alike?” and mentioned their shared love of animals, reading, and “dress up.”

Her father, who attended grief groups after her death and found solace in writing, eventually wrote a book called Love Stays, available on Amazon.  In an essay, he explains how healing this project has been. “My love for Molly was always manifested in actions.  Loving deeds were easier to finish than long sentences.  I hung shelving for her stuffed animals, taught her to drive a stick shift, carried her bags and showed her New York.  The love stays as I finish my last promise to her.  Since her death at 39, I have edited and posted a half dozen of Molly’s messages.  I choose a photo or two to post with her words–she is close by, almost touching my shoulder.  I smell the coffee she loved.  I ask her ‘Which message goes next?’ and I listen.”

The Value of Voice Memories

“A voice recording can help people deal with their loss,” believes Dr. Holly Prigerson, a professor and grief researcher at Harvard Medical School, quoted in an October Associated Press article by Tom Coyne.  “The main issue of grief and bereavement is you have lost connection with the one you love…You pine and crave than connection.”

This resonates with persons who lose someone suddenly and often find themselves listening to earlier voice mail messages and greetings.  In a future blog, I’ll include information on how important it is to transfer such prized phone messages to a permanent recording.  Unfortunately, phone carriers often erase such messages during upgrades, causing immeasurable grief.

In what ways have you found technology a source of solace, if any?

 

Growing Strong in the Broken Places

Can we imagine becoming stronger in our broken places?  There’s a tradition in Japanese pottery called Kintsugi, where a broken pot is restored through a type of gold joinery.  Potters cherish seeing the imperfections as a creative addition, making a pot more gorgeous and more precious than before it was fractured.  When something has suffered damage and has a history, they assert it becomes more beautiful, even giving rebirth to the bowl’s life story.

I first heard of this shortly after our daughter died through writings of the poet, Mark Doty.  He describes the ancient Japanese ceramic cups, once the property of some holy monk.  Centuries later, a cup was dropped and broken, but even in this condition it was too beautiful to simply destroy.  So it was repaired, not with glue, which wouldn’t hold for centuries to come, but with a seam of gold solder repairing the break in what could never be repaired perfectly.  The gold solder added a beauty to the cup, making part of it quite visible.

Rebirth of a Broken Pot       with thanks to potter          dicklehman.com

Rebirth of a Broken Pot
with thanks to potter
dicklehman.com

 

Doty writes, “The metaphor offers the possibility to ‘honor the part of oneself that’s irreparable-to fill the crack with gold means to give the break prominence, to let it shine.  Wearing its history, the old cup with its gilt scars becomes, I imagine, a treasure of another sort, whole in its own fragmentation, more deeply itself, veined with the evidence of time.”

dicklehman2

Dick Lehman pottery

dick lehman pottery

Dick Lehman pottery

I found this story and image held healing power.  I was so moved by it that my husband surprised me on my birthday that year by giving me a picture of Krista from high school inside a stone frame with golden veins.  It always reminds me that if we can keep our hearts open to love and grace after profound loss, enduring strength finds space to come forth from our broken places.

Image 1

Wild Comfort: Nature’s Gifts in Grief

IMG_0859

 

I love naturalist John Muir’s words written long ago from Yosemite that “Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”  I often hear persons in grief still echo his words of truth.  Over and over, persons tell me of experiences in nature which have nurtured their path into healing and restoration of emotional strength.  Whether it is the visit of a swarm of yellow butterflies at a memorial service, beginning a morning cup of coffee looking out at the flaming maple tree planted in memory of a red-haired daughter, or collecting rocks from the Kiniksu National Forest beloved by a son, these moments give harbingers of hope that life will continue with meaning and joy again.   For my husband, backpacking for a week of solitude in the Olympic Rain Forest with our retriever Scout, two years after our daughter died, became a gentle turning point towards peace.

WILD COMFORT

A contemporary naturalist from Oregon, Kathleen Dean Moore, writes of a season where several devastating deaths left her immersed in sorrow.  So she turned to the comfort of the wild to see what the natural world might teach her about sorrow and gladness.  She writes meditations of these excursions of tracking otters on the beach, wading among migrating salmon in the dark, cooking breakfast in the desert, canoeing in a snow squall in her book Wild Comfort:  The Solace of Nature.  She found such intentional connection to the natural world gave reassurance to her soul, moving her to hope and courage, healing and gratitude. As she expresses,

“I have felt their peace, the steady surge and flow of the sea on sand, water slipping over stones.  There is meaning in the natural rhythms of dying and living, winter and spring, bones and leaves.  Even in times of bewilderment or despair, there is steadfast ground underfoot–pine duff, baked clay, stone turned red in the rain.  I am trying to understand this, the power of water, air, earth, and time to bring gladness gradually from grief and to restore meaning to lives that seem empty or unmoored.”

When I walk outside, the leaves on our Witch Hazel, burning bush, lace-leaf Japanese maples, and Virginia Creeper have begun their magic metamorphosis…and my heart still leaps at their stunning beauty.

Have moments in nature offered solace for you?  I’d love to hear your stories!

Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast

 

 

 

 

 

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About Linda
For everyone, life sometimes brings shipwreck moments.

Ours happened when four friends woke us one beautiful May dawn to break the news that our 25-year-old married daughter Krista had died 7000 miles away while volunteering in Bolivia. Our hearts shattered, much like the shards of her bus that plunged over a mountain cliff.
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Support for Parents

+ Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors On-line forum and website www.allianceofhope.org

+ American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO) (Formerly Candlelighters Childhood Cancer) www.acco.org

+ Compassionate Friends www.compassionatefriends.org

+ First Candle: www.firstcandle.org Support for Stillborn and SIDS deaths

+ Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide (LOSS) www.catholiccharities.net/loss

+ MISS Foundation (also in Spanish) www.missfoundation.org On-line support groups : Infant & toddler death and advocacy

+Parents of Murdered Children www.pomc.com

+ TAPS: Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors: www.taps.org 1-800-959 3277 for survivors of military deaths