Alice Saunders remembers when she first noticed something weird going on with her dad, Arpiar Saunders, better known as "Arpy."

"There had been a piñata in our house for someone's birthday party, and he was trying to talk about the piñata, but he kept saying 'piña, piña, piña colada.' I was like, what is he talking about?"

She didn't think much of the word mix-up, but that sort of thing started happening more. She was in her early 20s when they finally learned why: Arpy had frontotemporal dementia, or FTD. His form of dementia mainly affected speech, and some motor function. The doctor predicted that Arpy had five to 10 years to live, and, as time passed, he'd have more and more trouble speaking.

"In his head, he knew exactly what he wanted to say, and then actually getting the words out, that's where there was a disconnect," Alice says.

By the time Alice was trying to start a business selling handmade bags, the person she'd always turned to for help couldn't give advice anymore. She struggled with that loss.

"Because I just wanted my dad, you know? I was 29 years old and overwhelmed with life."

By then, there were just two full phrases that her father could still say. One was "proud to be your dad," and the other was "I love you."

"I'd get voicemails sometimes that was just like, 'I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you' for five minutes straight. That's what he could say at the end."

It was around this time that Alice started dating Greg Ralich, and Greg was immediately struck by her intense closeness with her dad.

"Calling Alice and telling [her] that he loved her, I think that was the deepest thing in him," Greg says.

Greg and Alice had been dating for six months when she got a phone call saying her dad had choked on some food and was on life support. Three days later, Arpy died.

It was November, and in the weeks that followed, Alice threw herself into her business and the holiday rush.

Then, on Christmas, Greg surprised her when he handed her an envelope. When she opened it, she found a USB flash drive taped to a card. It said "Merry Christmas," and below it, next to an arrow, "All of your dad's voicemails."


Alice Saunders holds the flash drive of her father's voicemail messages, and the note Greg Ralich wrote when he gave it to her. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

It turns out Greg had snuck onto her phone and saved every voicemail from her dad from the past year, dozens and dozens of them. Alice was floored.

"I had never been given a gift like that. It sounds really intense, but it's like his dying words."

Alice didn't listen to the recordings for more than two years; it felt too painful, too raw. But recently, it was finally time. Greg picked one of her dad's voicemails for her to listen to.

"I'm a little scared, I'm just going to be honest with you," she said before clicking play. "I don't know what my reaction's going to be."

Then came her dad's voice: "I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you. Call me back, call me back, call me back. OK, bye bye bye bye bye bye."

It was 18 seconds long, recorded in July of 2014, just a few months before he died.

"It's just pure love, you know?" Alice said when she heard it. "Just pure love.

"Maybe, if I get married someday, I can listen to one of these before I walk down the aisle." she added. "If I have a baby, you know I can play one of these and know that his grandchild can hear his voice."

Alice has listened to only one voicemail so far, but she knows she has many saved for her whenever she needs them. For years, Alice feared losing her dad's voice, but now it's the piece of him she knows she'll always have.

This story first aired on WBUR's Kind World podcast. You can share your own story of kindness by emailing This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .