On a windy hill in Japan where the 100 year-old city of Otsuchi used to be, there stands an old fashioned English styled phone booth. Inside is a black rotary phone on a wooden shelf. It is connected to nothing. Or is it?
People come from miles away – thousands of them – to talk to their loved ones lost in the tsunami of 2011. They weep. They give the update of their lives. They apologize for lost opportunities. They send hopes that the loved one is eating, staying warm, finding their way home. Does it help? For some families, it is the first time they talked about the loved one as a family – the first time a child has even spoken at all. For Itaru Sasaki, who erected the phone booth after the death of his beloved cousin even before the tsunami wiped away 19250 people – “Because my thoughts could not be relayed over a regular phone line, I wanted them to be carried on the wind.”
Whatever we believe happens after death – that the person is on another plane of existence, reincarnated, caught between the life they knew and the next life, or simply vanished – sometimes we just have the desire to connect, to show love and care for the person in some way. Last week I had a conversation with my beloved friend, Marvin as I was walking down the street. Marvin and I often talked as we were walking and it just seemed very natural to strike up a conversation. Although I don’t have any concrete ideas about where Marvin is, the conversation felt as real as if he were walking beside me. Marvin talked to me with love and openness as he always had. Was it really him speaking or just my imagination of what he would say? It doesn’t matter. It felt wonderful. It felt that a real connection.
So if you are missing communicating with someone you love – if you are suffering at the thought of their absence – ask yourself what their absence really means to you. What is it about their absence that is causing your suffering? Is it possible to experience their absence in another way if you didn’t believe you had to suffer? So many times the answers to these questions have more to do with what we so desire to express to them – rather than what they give to us. What is it that you are wanting? What barriers are you placing there? If it seems silly to talk to them; if you don’t know how; if it seems as if you’re fooling yourself – let yourself know what you’re believing and get in touch again with what you are wanting. The desire to connect with a beloved even after death doesn’t need permission or proof of concept. The desire itself is telling you that on some level you believe it is possible.
To your happiness,
This American Life aired the story of Itaru’s wind telephone on 9/23/16. To listen, go to http://tal.fm/597.