For many years we had the same message on our answering machine: my husband's voice saying in a midwestern twang, "You have reached the Zirkelbachs. Please leave a message at the sound of the tone."
After he died, I kept the message. It was my one "real" connection to him. Friends and relatives who called always expressed their pleasure at hearing Ralph's voice, even if it was just a recording. I loved hearing it, too, and besides, it's a good idea to have a man's voice on the answering machine.
When I got a new phone system a few years ago, I managed to put the old message on. It was muffled, but that was okay with me.
This fall my phones gave out. I bought new ones but I couldn't use Ralph's message; it was so full of static, no caller would have understood it. Now it's gone. And I miss it. I feel sad when I call home to pick up messages and hear myself answer. Every New Year's at midnight, I dialed our number from my cell phone and welcomed the new year in with Ralph. Silly, huh? But it meant a lot to me. This was the first New Year's Eve that I couldn't call. But his voice is still there in my mind and in my heart.