After my best friend Steve passed from cancer, I would call his widow only to hear Steve's voice on the recorded message “Hi. You’ve reached the James’ residence. Alison and I are not home right now. Please leave a message.”
The first time I heard his voice, for just a moment, I forgot he was no longer alive. I began to say “Hi, Steve, it’s…” when I remembered he was gone. I stammered “er, Alison, it’s Phil, just calling to ask how things are. I’ll call back later.”
Alison later explained that when she’d call and no one was home, hearing Steve’s voice always made her feel better. Sometimes, even though she knew her daughter was out, she would call just to hear his voice. It was a great comfort to her.
After several months Alison allowed her teenage daughter’s boyfriend to stay alone in their home with her daughter when he visited if she had to go on an errand thinking his presence would help ease the pain of her father’s passing.
One day, when Alison called home, Steve’s recorded voice-mail message did not answer and the phone continued to ring. Upon returning home, Alison found her daughter crying. She and her boyfriend had had a terrible row and had broken up. Her boyfriend had spitefully erased her father’s recorded message before storming out of the house.
Now every time Alison calls home and the telephone company’s computer-generated, electronic voice-mail message says “No one is home. Leave a message”, she realizes with deep sadness she is finally, truly alone.