James has a new fascination with my cell phone. I get it – there are buttons, noises, bright colors, what’s not to like? When I’m making dinner I stick James in his high chair, and sometimes when he gets antsy I’ll turn on a baby app and hand him my phone. I did this the other night and was able to finish dinner while he happily played in his chair. It was only when I took the phone away that I realized I’d forgotten to put the phone on guided access. He’d managed to move my apps all over the place but at least nothing had been deleted.
After dinner and the kids were asleep, my cell rang. I grabbed the phone and looked at the caller ID, and my heart stopped.
I was so confused and before I could even really process what was happening, the ringing stopped.
I checked my phone history and quickly figured out that James had managed to call Jackie’s number when he’d been messing around with my phone.
I still hadn’t been able to delete her number from my phone. In fact, she was still on my speed dial.
Then my voicemail dinged.
It took me a couple of hours to work up the courage, but I finally listened to the voicemail:
“Hi, I had a missed call from this number, so I’m calling it back. Thanks.”
The voice belonged to a man.
I’ve known for a while that I needed to delete Jackie’s number from my speed dial. I’ve occasionally dialed the number by accident, and what would I have said if the deep-voiced man answered? “Oh, sorry, this number used to belong to my friend before she died.” But, I never expected him to call back. I never expected him to leave a message.
Still…I knew I had to remove her number from my speed dial. Another sign she’s gone.
Even though it was the logical thing to do, it felt like I was betraying her. Even now, days later, I still have irrational guilt. As if, somehow, removing her number from my phone was dishonoring her memory. I have thousands of photos, some of her possessions, and millions of memories and still, hitting “delete” made me feel physically ill.
I can tell myself over and over that I’m not betraying her and yet, these little steps I have to take because she’s gone…they still hurt. A lot.
Anne Younger says:
It took me 3 years to remove my grandmother’s phone number and I still feel guilty. ????
My dad’s number is still in my cellphone. It’s been over two years since he died… Also, my stephmom’s home number on my caller ID at home still says “Dad and Inge”. I can’t bring myself to delete ‘Dad’.
My dad has been gone for over 5 years and I haven’t deleted any of this contact information from my phone. Phone, email, address. Every once in a while when I pull up my contacts, his is on the screen, I like to think he’s saying hi to me.
My family cottage still has a handwritten list of phone numbers, written by my grandfather. It lists his 2nd wife’s number, three numbers of family members that have died since he did in 2001, his ‘car phone’ number, and two other numbers of neighbours that have since moved. The crockpot he used up there in the summer still sits – broken – on the counter, and God help the person who drinks from or accidently breaks his special coffee mug. None of these things have any value or place in our lives but getting rid of them feels impossible.
Letting go isn’t easy. I’m sorry you are struggling with the grief. Grief is a jerk.
We have a family cabin like this. Although my husband’s grandparents are gone for nearly ten years now, and their house has been sold and possessions divided among their middle-aged children and adult grandchildren, the cabin is different. It’s not a shrine, but the Proud Grandmother magnets still stick to the fridge. New rafts and floats and life jackets litter the supply room, but his gandfather’s fishing rod is right where he left it, too. A Valentine’s Day card from my husband’s grandfather to his grandmother was displayed on the mantle for years until recently someone framed it for safe keeping. A love poem from him to her is still tacked on the bulletin board, and the phone list just grows ever longer with new numbers added to the bottom. Neighbors long since moved away, land line numbers and old “car phone” numbers dominate the middle, and now cell phone numbers are at the bottom. But the old man who sells cords of firewood is still near the top, and he still has the same number. The very first one is the number for poison control in the 1950s, in his grandmother’s handwriting, before phone numbers had all the digits they have now. It makes me smile remembering that she was a young mother with four rambunctious boys and one crazy tomboy of a daughter back then. The fact that poison control was number one says a lot about her mindset: practical, for sure, with just a hint of “Oh please, let me keep these kids alive and my fingers crossed that no one accidentally poisons themselves on vacation.”
Reading the comments and your post, Heather, have both made me feel better and guilty. My dad died in February and it still doesn’t feel real and yet excruciatingly painful. But only days after he died I changed the number for “Mom and Dad” to just “Mom” in my phone because I couldn’t bear to look at his name there with hers knowing he was no longer at that number. I felt guilty at the time and still think of it all the time, but the pain seemed overwhelming to see his name. My mother still has his cell phone and I have wanted to call it to hear his voice but feel like I can’t bear that, either. Grief is so very painful and hits you in such unexpected ways.
I’m this way about my address book. My father-in-laws name is still in there even though he died 8 years ago.
My Dad had left a piece of green tape on our family room wall to remind him where the couch should be placed. After he passed away, I came into the family room and saw that piece of tape there and felt like a piece of him was there too. It was silly, I know. But then one day the tape wasn’t there, and I freaked out. I asked everyone who had removed it, but nobody confessed. I was so upset. But one day while I was vacuuming the couch, I found the tape under one of the cushions. I knew it was a sign from him, I put the tape in a safe place, and still have it, four years later. Maybe the fact that James dialed Jackie’s number is a sign from her that she is still with you. In thinking that, maybe it will make the deleting a little less betraying. Hugs to you!
I love that story. (I love all these stories actually.) It seems so silly, doesn’t it? The things we find important and cling to after a loss.
My grandmother always saved the rubber bands from the mail, in case she needed a rubber band. My grandfather has had them next to his chair since she died 4 months ago. And has told everyone that they are not allowed to get rid of them.
I totally get it. It took us over 4 years to recarpet our bedroom where Sawyer (most likely) died. When they were taking away the old carpet I thought seriously about keeping it. . .
Sending hope and hugs. xo
This Saturday will mark 12 years since my dad died and he’s still in my email contacts. It took about 10 years for him to no longer be in my phone contacts and that was because of an incomplete port with a new phone. My grandpa has been gone for 3.5 years and my contact still says “Grandma & Grandpa”. I can’t bring myself to change it. Also, like another posted said, my grandma has a handwritten phone list on her fridge. My dad’s number is still right there. Makes me smile now when it see it because it brings him to mind. Nothing wrong with keeping little reminders of her around, it keeps them right here with us.
A friend of mine was tragically killed one morning on the way in to work. I could never delete his number out of my cell phone either. When I eventually switched phone companies, I never added his number back in. It’s tough, I’m so sorry.
I have yet to be able to delete my cousin’s number from my phone and when I posted a picture of it on the one year anniversary, relatives admitted to the same, having the phone number still, and/or text messages they still read. It’s funny how something as small as deleting a phone number can be so hard.
I know exactly how you feel. I still have my Dad’s phone number in my phone. He will have been gone 10 years this December. I just can’t delete it.
I still have my dad in my cell phone, 13 months after his passing. I looked at it one day and the picture had changed to a black lady. My dad was neither black or a lady. My phone is synced with Facebook and she must have been assigned his cell number. I still haven’t deleted it.
A friend of mine died July 5, 2012 and I still have all of her information in my Palm Pilot (data and address) so every July 5 it pops up. I still have postcards she sent me from her travels and when I open drawers I see them. Some things are just too hard to delete/discard and that s fine with me.
I haven’t been able to delete a few relatives out of my home phone either. Hugs to you.
My best friend died over six years ago. Her number is still on my phone. I’m sure someone else has it too, but… yeah. I can’t part with not seeing her name there from time to time.
I am the same way with my grandfather’s number. It is disconnected but I don’t have the heart to delete it. On a happier but wierd note – I had a dream that you and Mike came over with the kids for a play date. Then, we went for ice cream. Even in my dream your kids were freaking adorable.
morning puppy cuddles!
Whoops, I was writing a random comment on the donation post!
My initial thought, when reading this, was how interesting that Jackie! “called” soon after you wrote about how the walk impacted you. It was as if she was saying, “I really am here with you!”. I choose to see this as a message from her to you. While I hope you find some peace in this, I in NO WAY mean to diminish your grief. Letting go of the contact was like saying goodbye to the final pieces of her you had left. The guilt is the feeling that you let go willingly; you did no such thing. My heart goes out to you as I read this today. If nothing else, I hope the comments above show you that your feelings are relatable and you have a community of friends who care.
Joanna Smith says:
Thank you for posting this, Heather. My grandmother died almost 6 years ago and she had been living in an assisted living facility for over a year and I still can’t bring myself to delete her home phone number.
My family is rounding the corner to the one-year anniversary of the deaths of my paternal aunt and my father’s first cousin and it’s going to be a very long time before I can delete their numbers. When I got a new iPhone, I didn’t add them to my favorites list. It still feels weird that they aren’t there.
You should text the guy and tell him what a wonderful person Jackie! was, and that he should live life to the fullest in her memory.
Love this idea!
Jana Frerichs says:
I still have a can of garbanzo beans in my cupboard that were my dad’s. He died in 2002. When we cleaned out his house I took the can of Garbanzo Beans out of his pantry because he loved them. I put it in my own cupboard at home. I have moved 8 times since then and have packed them up with all of my other canned goods and brought them with. And every time, I think I should just throw them and I can’t. I unpack them and put them in my cupboard along with every other can I have. Of course we will never eat them, but it feels comforting having them there. When I put groceries away, they are there. Totally irrational. I completely get where you are coming from.
Not irrational at all–very beautiful.
I was on vacation with my Dad when he died. He had bought a can of cranberry sauce for a dinner we had, but didn’t eat the sauce. It is still in my cupboard. And like you, I think of him every time I open the cupboard and see that can. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to throw it out!
Haha! I love that! And now no longer for nutty for hauling ancient cans (cans! these suckas are old school!) of Cream of Tartar and Nutmeg from home to home with me for well over 15 years just because they belonged to my late Grandmother.
When my Dad had a stroke I added call waiting to my phone. I loathe call waiting but of course in this case it was necessary. My Dad passed away 11/2000. I cancelled call waiting about 10 years later. I just couldn’t bear the thought of not being available if he needed me. Totally irrational yes but I just couldn’t.
From all of the similar anecdotes above it would seem that this is a common part of grief and there’s comfort in knowing that.
I love that @Jana Frerichs carries around those garbanzo beans and @Jerilynn’s take on it is so touching.
I’m so sorry! It’s been 10 years that my mom has passed and I still have her # and address
I saw this and thought of your Maddie tat
Oh, I love that! Thank you!
My grandmother died in April, after outliving pretty much all her friends and family her age, except my grandfather. We found her address book that was about 30 years old. When we went through it, we saw she wrote “Died” and the date next to those who had passed on. It was so heartbreaking. Especially when we saw her little brother’s name, who was the last of her 5 brothers to pass on. I could just imagine my grandmother, in her grief, writing that and it hurt. It’s different than a cell phone though because its not just deleting. You still have the tangible proof there on the paper that this person existed and all the ways to contact them were there.
Grief is so horrible because you question yourself so much and you feel such guilt. It makes no logical sense to feel guilt for deleting a number, but there it is and its still so understandable. I feel guilt for using past tense for my grandmother. I feel guilt when I talk about just my grandfather or refer to their house as just his, rather than using both thier names. Like she’s not existing anymore or never existed, like I’m forgetting her, if I start to drop her from conversations or refer to her in the past tense.
Hugs to you, Heather. I love the person earlier who said grief is a jerk. Grief is such a little jerk. Sometimes grief itself gets in the way of grieving.
When my Opa (grandfather) died, I went through his pocket calendar. He had everyones birthdays written in the calendar, and when someone died, he had put an ‘X’ through their name. It was also heartbreaking to think of what he must have felt doing that.
My brother died 18 years ago and my Mom still has the last fish he ever caught frozen in her freezer. The fish has made several moves with my parents!
I COMPLETELY understand. It’s been over 6 years since my father died, and I have never changed the name of my mom’s home phone contact from “mom & dad.”
So, so very sad…
So many interesting comments. I’m sorry this was hard for you. When my dad passed, my mom and I took comfort from hearing his voice on the answering machine (remember answering machines?). However, my sister said it was “creepy” and “weird” and one day she removed it. I cried from the loss. I would give anything to have a tape of his voice.
There was a message on my answering machine from my mom before she died. She sounded terrible because she was so sick. The answering machine that we had made you go through all messages to listen to the new ones (crazy, I know) and it was so hard to hear her sounding like that. I finally asked my husband to delete it for me sometime when I wasn’t home. It’s so hard to let go.
I can’t delete numbers either. I scroll through the ‘phone book’ on my house phone and it’s both startling and reassuring to see my Grandma’s phone number and my Grampy’s phone number as I go through.
The Gchat sidebar in my email kills me, though. A few weeks after a friend died while traveling in Costa Rica, the green dot next to her name lit up and I felt like I’d been thrown across the room. It was such an awful rollercoaster for my mind – like maybe she was there, just a click away, and it had all been a huge mistake. And then I realized it meant someone was on her computer and they were probably in so much pain as they looked for whatever they were looking for. I kept hovering over her name, wanting to say something but I didn’t. Gah, I’m in tears just thinking about it.
My wonderful grandma died in December and she’s still showing up in my offline recent chat list. I haven’t signed into chat in months because it’s going to be so hard to see her name fall off the list, just like my friend’s eventually did.
Ok, I’m going to go leave some comments on the vaccine donation post to try to lift my mood. Hugs to you, Heather. It sucks.
I totally understand about the names falling off the recent contacts. When my grandma was dying, I was really only going back and forth from home to the hospital to her and my grandfather’s house. I used my gps to remind me to turn so I wouldn’t miss a turn or something, since I was so emotional. I haven’t used my gps since the day she died, because I don’t want those addresses and trips to fall off the recent contacts. I haven’t thought of it this was until now, after reading Heather’s post, but it would feel like a betrayal to me. Like I’ve forgotten and moved on from her.
Heather R says:
One of my closest friends was shot and killed just over 5 years ago. I kept his email address in my contacts and his number on my phone. About two years ago, I was at a restaurant with a large group of friends when I got a notification that he had sent me an email. Though I knew it wasn’t possible (turns out someone had hacked/ sent spam using his dormant account) I burst into tears on the spot. I had to delete him out of my email address book so I wouldn’t go through that again, but he remains in my phone to this day. So does my grandmother whom I lost last year. It just gives me some comfort to scroll past them every now and then.
Completely understand. I still have my moms number in my phone and we just hit the 5 year mark. I smile when I scroll by it, for some reason it gives me comfort. I say leave it for as long as you want (why remove something that isn’t bothering anybody)?
My son’s contact info is still in my phone 4.5 years after his death. I did call it once – it went to a voice mail. But then like your experience I got a call back – I cried when I heard the other voice on the voice mail and then harder when I saw his name come up on the incoming call. Still, I don’t see myself deleting it any time soon. Everyone has to deal with these things in their own timing. Grief is a jerk – ya I like that phrase.
I had a similar experience happen to me. My mom died nine years ago and I still keep her name and number in my phone (it makes me feel better to see it grouped with the rest of the family, and it keeps her birthday in my calendar!. Siri misunderstood me one time when I asked her to call someone else, and called my mom’s number instead. It rang once before I caught it and the person promptly called me back. It was surreal seeing her name on my phone but I didn’t pick up. For a year or two after she died I would send emails to her and would occasionally have dreams about her responding… Reading the posts above about accidentally receiving email and seeing people online gives me the chills.
My Grandma died June 1st and she is still listed in my phone in the “recently” called numbers because I can’t bring myself to make calls on my cell phone, which would move her off of the “recently called” list. I still have her in my contact listing and have 3 saved voice mail messages from her that I hope never disappear. My grandma seemed more like a mom to me than a grandma. I miss her terribly. I also have a friend Barb who passed away in July from breast, bone and brain cancer. When I was trying to call a friend named Lisa, every time I typed is L I S A – my phone brought up Barb’s contact information. It did that a few times, and eventually it started finding the Lisa information. I bet Barb was just popping in and saying hi.
I think your Jackie was letting you know that she is still with you.
I’ve been meaning to tell you that I took one if your tips for sending cards, in the extended period following a loss to heart. In April there was a terrible plain crash and 4 30 year old men were killed. One had just been married 2 weeks before and we had many mutual friends. I set a date on my calendar for this week to send a card that she was still in my thoughts. It is in the mail
I still ring Cams phone – it’s disconnected, so nobody new has been assigned his number yet. It’s going to blow when that happens.
Sometimes I text him, email him … the other day I started a google hangout with him. It said he wasn’t available but when he’s back online he’ll get my message.
I felt strangely reassured.
I think about you a lot, Heather. Probably should tell you that more often. xxxxxx
I can’t delete my Nana’s phone number yet. It’s been almost two years. I call the number all the time and talk to the lady who says “this never has been changed or is no longer in service” and pretend my Nana can hear me.
You didn’t betray her at all. Maybe James was trying to send you a message from Jackie that she was thinking of you and that in no way is deleting her number deleting her from your memory or your heart. That would be impossible.
Sending you love.
I still haven’t deleted her number. I feel like deleting her number is so permanent. It doesn’t make sense but I still haven’t.
Every once in awhile I’ll read her texts she sent me and I can hear her voice.
I just read this. And cried.
On Sunday FB sent me a birthday reminder for this week. One for a friend who passed away from cancer about 6 months ago. Happy frickin’ birthday. But I am grateful that her husband has left her facebook page open. And today there were many poignant messages left on her page. I read as many as I could, through tears.