When I leave my children home alone, we keep Rob’s phone on the kitchen island in case they need to call me while I’m out. My kids know the phone is only for emergencies, but I try to check up on them regularly when I’m gone. Leaving your kids after loss is a complex process, and I work hard to honor their needs and desires for reassurance. Their comfort it always my first priority.
Yesterday afternoon, I ran out to do some quick errands in town. The kids were all happily occupied with activities around the house, and no one wanted to join me. When I called from the car about 45 minutes later, nobody picked up. I let the phone ring and ring and ring. And then I let it slip into voicemail. Something I haven’t done in a long time. And I heard his voice.
For just a moment, Rob was really there. Still. On the other end of the line. Like no time had passed. No death. No eleven months. No massive distance that travel cannot cross. I wanted to leave a message. “Where are you? Call me back when you get this. I love you.” The same words I left so many months ago.
Suddenly, I was hanging up and calling again. Waiting through the ringing. This time hoping no child would answer. Hoping only to hear his voice. To hear something more. Not just the voicemail recording, but new words. Hoping to feel him near again.
This Friday, it will be eleven months since Rob last spoke to me. As I near the year mark of his death, I feel the painful tension of the passage of time and the still tender immediacy of loss. The voicemail of the man who sounds so very much alive. On the phone of the man who is so very dead.
Something came alive in me when I heard his voice again. Something in me that has felt dead for so many long months. A mix of longing and joy and deep sorrow and love that was the best I’ve felt in a long time. An urge to find him in any way I can in this world that now feels so devoid of him. For the rest of my life, my heart will listen for Rob. In crowded rooms. In the quiet of a car ride to the hardware store. I will always long to hear his voice. The voice of my beloved.
I told Rob I’d call back soon. I’m glad he’ll answer when I do.