I was listening to an episode of This American Life entitled “One Last Thing Before I Go.” It was talking about how people in Japan have coped with the loss of loved ones following the tsunami of 2011, specifically in the town of Otsuchi as it had one of the highest death tolls. Following the desire to stay connected to his deceased cousin, Itaru Sasaki decided to buy an old phone booth which he placed in his garden complete with a disconnected rotary phone as a respite where he (and eventually others) could call their deceased loved ones and stay connected. Since a regular telephone is not able to call the dead, this phone has been called a “wind telephone” as the conversations were “carried in the wind.”
As listeners, we got to overhear some of the conversations. There were a variety of reactions from a recap of day to day occurrences, uncomfortable laughter, long pauses, gasping tears, and reassurances that they were doing just fine. One family was finally able to speak about the loss of their father as a family since the wind telephone had opened up their lines of communication.
This got me thinking of the various ways we can honor our loved ones who have passed on. We can write a letter or a tribute, light a candle, create a memorial, plant a tree, install a bench, create works of art, cook their favorite meal, compose a piece of music, listen to a song they enjoyed, tend to the grave site, release their ashes in nature, or find a unique way to honor the individual in a way that is authentic to who they were. The theme I noticed involves tapping in to different senses to bring them back to life, if you will.
Another idea is to make amends with someone or to choose to live your life differently such as fulfilling your own destiny. The podcast ended with a story of two brothers who were in their eighties who had been feuding for most of their lives and the son of one of the men who had made it his mission to have them reach reconciliation. I believe This American Life coupled these stories together for a reason. Death has a way of helping us see the bigger picture and focus on what really matters in life. While you are able to do things that can help you grieve and honor the ones who have passed, it can be more fruitful and rewarding to be intentional to connect and reconcile with those who are still alive.
Is there anyone you need to call today, either on the wind phone or your cell phone?