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The Perfect Present

I needed to hear from my daughter one last time.

Guideposts Mysterious Ways

Normally, I loved birthdays. When my son and three daughters were little, my husband, Charles, and I always made sure to have dinner, followed by a big cake and presents. Later, when the kids were grown and living in different states, they always called to wish me a happy birthday. But this year I could have skipped the whole day, knowing there was one call I wouldn’t be receiving, from my daughter Patty. She’d passed away unexpectedly just a month before. I was devastated. The one small comfort I had was a voicemail that she’d left on my cell phone the night before she died, telling me she loved me.

Over the following days I listened to her message over and over again, clinging to the last words she said: “I love you very, very much, Mom.”

Then, a couple of weeks before my birthday, while I was doing laundry, I accidentally dropped my phone in the washing machine. Quickly I pulled it out and dried it off, but when I checked voicemail, Patty’s message was gone. I sobbed, heartbroken. Day after day I kept checking my voicemail, hoping Patty’s message would reappear. It never did.

All I wanted for my birthday was to hear Patty’s voice again. But the cell phone manual said erased voicemails couldn’t be retrieved. “I know you don’t feel like celebrating,” Charles said the day of my birthday, “but let’s go out for dinner and a movie. It might help take your mind off things.”

Charles was right. I turned off my phone, settled into my seat in the movie theater and let the film take me away. But the minute it ended I started thinking about Patty again. As we were walking out of the theater, I turned on my phone. It chimed, signaling I’d gotten a voicemail. Probably just my youngest daughter, Leslie, calling to wish me a happy birthday, I thought.

I dialed up voicemail and the message began. It was Patty’s voice, clear as a bell, saying again, “I love you very, very much, Mom.”

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