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    A dad’s last message

    My relationship with my dad had gone through huge ups and downs, but in the end, the gift he left me was love.

    Gracia Lam

    I CHARGED OUT OF THE HOUSE late afternoon on a Saturday a few months ago with only two things on my mind: “Get to the Apple Store quickly” and “Pray that they can help you.” I prayed that they could help me during the whole 35-minute ride.

    I still had a message on my phone from my father, left a week before he died. I think it was the sweetest message he’d ever left me, and I was terrified of not being able to hear his voice again. Our long-distance relationship had gone through huge ups and downs, but he and my mom had visited us recently. This message was left after that trip.

    The fact that I had just seen him was a gift. The fact that we were at peace with each other was a gift. The fact that I had saved his message was a gift. That I had heard the message, called him back, and we were able to have one more good and long conversation before he fell asleep was the biggest gift of all. Two nights later, he went to sleep and never woke up.


    When we lose someone we love, that is all we have, isn’t it? The little trail of gifts they leave behind.

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    After frantically scouring the mall’s packed parking lot for a space, I was finally running through the entrance of the store. I found the guy who was checking people in. With a torrent of words, I told him why I was there. “Hi, I want to transfer a voice message from my phone to my computer, but today no matter what I tried, it wouldn’t work. I’m really worried that this message is going to be kicked out and I won’t be able to retrieve it. It’s from my dad and he just died.”

    It’s amazing how losing a parent at any age can reduce you to being a lost child again, “I’m looking for my dad! I need my dad!” God bless those dear Apple people. The nice young man who was doing the intake assured me that he would find someone to help. He brought me to a nice young woman who had red streaks painted on her hair. She walked me through the steps I had already tried to record the message from my phone onto my computer. She couldn’t get it to work either. She went and consulted someone with more technical knowledge, came back, and tried what he had said. It still didn’t work. She called him over. His name was Nick C., but I thought it was Nixxy the way she was saying it. He was another nice young person who had the kind of earrings that make the holes in your ears expand. He couldn’t figure it out either. Could it be the cable? They swapped the cable out — no, my cable was fine.

    The three of us kept staring at my computer screen as the recording indicator remained a flat line, no matter what we tried. I watched them hit the word “Dad” over and over again on my phone, and each time they hit it, I was afraid the message would be deleted by mistake.

    “Hey, let me try turning the volume up,” Nick C. said. He hit “Dad” one more time. The recording indicator sprang to life, making beautiful waves with the sound. The three of us cheered. The girl and I hugged. “Thank you. Oh, thank you!” I cried with tears streaming. I drove home, overwhelmingly grateful to have this little piece of my dad safely tucked away. As I thought about it, I realized why it mattered to me so much. It wasn’t the words he said, it was just the way his voice sounded — so full of love. He didn’t know that this would be his last message to me, but he filled it up with love anyway.


    Love was the gift he left behind. I reminded myself, no matter what, to leave love behind. Leave love behind.

    D. Alison Watt is a poet, writer, and author ofHurricane Dancing. Send comments to

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