“daddy, what did my mommy’s voice sound like?”

at least

(i thought)

i was prepared

for this one.

a few days earlier

i got a message

from maddy’s sitter.

“your kid has me crying.”

“oh shit. what happened?”

“we’ll talk when you get home.”

back home,

kelly told me

that maddy chose

to have her read

a comic book for

her bedtime story,

and while she read

the story, changing her

voice for each

character, maddy told

her to “do my daddy’s voice”

and went on

requesting to hear

the voices of all

the people in

her life.

looking sad,

she said,

“do my mommy’s voice…i don’t know it.”

kelly said

she didn’t know

it either, but told

her to ask me,

at which time she

brightened up.

then she changed the

subject back

to the tiny titans,

as only an

almost 4 year old can.

the next morning on

the way to

school, i was working

on finding the

strength to ask

maddy if she wanted

to hear her mommy’s voice

sometime, knowing

that it meant

that i would also

have to hear


voice for the first

time since she died,

something i quite honestly

was not ready to do…

but before i could

execute my plan,

my little lady

beat me to it.

“daddy, what did my mommy’s voice sound like?”

as prepared as

i thought i was,

i guess i wasn’t.

(instant tears from me).

“maddy, would you like to hear her voice? i have some videos we can watch together.”


“maddy, you know you can talk about to me about your mommy anytime, right?”

(i say this to her a lot).

“i know, daddy.”



“i love you, daddy.”

“i love you too, maddy.”

(she knows exactly when i need to hear that from her, it seems).

later that day,

working on a long-term

photo library reorganization project,

i set something

down on my desk

(apparently on my keyboard),

and spun my chair

to get up.

as i made my way to

the door, i heard


voice, hushed yet

unmistakeable, even after

all these years

without it,

coming from somewhere

below the sounds

of the caretaker record

i was listening to.

i rushed back

to the computer,

fumbling for a way

to end the sounds

i wasn’t prepared to hear,

but couldn’t.

i let the video end,

then played it again.

it was one of

those stupid videos,

the ones we all

have from the early days

of digital cameras…

she went around the

table, asking her cousin,

her cousin’s brother-in-law

and others to acknowledge

the amazing piece

of technology she

held in her hands.

the video ends with this:

“matt, say hi!”

which i did, in

my own sheepish way,

arms crossed, a hand

barely lifted for

a brief wave,

the camera pointed

at me until she

stopped recording.

and that was it.

a video that would

have been deleted years

ago if anyone

knew of its existence,

now watched a

third time,

“natalie.” “chris.” “ben.”

“matt, say hi!”

video stopped.

i heard her,

but didn’t see her.

i can taste

the bile, i can feel

the rest coming

up, so i run

and vomit like

i haven’t in

a long time,

dropping to my knees

to get it all out.

more than seeing

that other video

a few weeks

(or was it months?)

back, it was

nothing compared to

hearing her voice.

in my head, as

i anticipated someday

having to confront this moment

i always thought

that seeing her

animated would be

the toughest part

for me,

never thinking about

hearing her voice.

i guess i never really

separated the two things

in my mind

(most videos include sound)

but seeing movement for

the first time

without sound made

hearing her voice

without movement

impossibly, soul-crushingly difficult.

as i said,

i wasn’t ready for this.

but madeline’s ready,

she’s told me so,

and for her i have

to be.

she pushes me,

leading me to where

i need to be for her.

so with

march 25th a few

days behind me,

the date

weighing heavier on my

mind then it

has since the first one,

tonight i watched more.

as many as i

could find.



sometimes combined,

sometimes separated,

in places like

athens, minneapolis, nyc, kathmandu,

a different lifetime.

more time on my

on my knees, vomiting

from the pain

i’ve avoided for over

4 years now.

all because she’s ready

to hear



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