NPR recently re-aired an episode of The American Life in which a phone booth in Japan is featured where thousands of people go to feel close to the loved ones they lost in the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. In this glass phone booth, atop a picturesque hill in a remote town, people come to speak to those they lost whom they never got to say good-bye to or to say the things they didn’t say before that fateful day. The so-called ‘Wind Phone’ is just a disconnected dial phone in a white phone booth that overlooks the Pacific ocean. And even though the phone doesn’t connect to anything or anyone in the literal sense, thousands of people have still stepped in and shared messages with those they lost — messages, we can assume, of regret, forgiveness, love, longing, hope.
I’ve been lucky that I haven’t lost too many people in my life yet, but if I had the chance to speak to someone who has passed away, I think I know whom I’d choose.
I’ve lost three grandparents and while I would love to tell them I miss them, that I still think about them and talk about them, I would probably choose my mother-in-law, who passed away in the early 80s, to speak to if I had the chance. I’d tell her what an amazing man her son — both sons — grew up to be, what a good husband and father Drew is, how kind and funny and loving he is, and that I know, as a mother and because of what I’ve heard about her, what a big role she must have played in all of that. As a mom myself, if I didn’t get to see my children grow up to become adults, I can imagine how much it would mean to know they found partners who loved and appreciated them and that they were cared for. I’d tell my MIL about our kids, her grandkids — how funny and sweet and loving they are, and how Drew and I are doing our best to raise them well, to honor her and her husband’s memories, and to instill in them the same values they — and my parents — instilled in Drew and me.
If you could speak to a lost loved one, who would it be? What would you say?