Phoning a Dead Beloved?

Image: Akira Tana and Otonowa/Sound Circle

Years ago Isaru Sasaki chose his home site on a hill overlooking the sea above Otsuchi, Japan. In 2010, after the death of a beloved cousin, he installed a charming little phone booth in his garden with many-paned glass walls, an Asian peaked green roof, and an old-fashioned dial telephone inside, not connected to any phone line. Sasaki created this as a quiet place to grieve for and connect with his cousin. He called this the Phone of the Wind, because it is the wind that carries his voice.

One year later the earthquake-sourced tsunami that swept through Otsuchi, destroying most of the small fishing village and killing many of its residents, caused a massive meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. When Sasaki’s hilltop home was saved, he offered the use of his phone to grieving villagers or to anyone who yearned to connect with a dead beloved.

At first only villagers came, but soon there were others. One fifteen-year-old boy made a four-hour journey to the booth to talk to his father who had been swept out to sea in the tsunami. A woman whose husband had been killed and their home destroyed, dialed her house number to reach out to him in the booth. She says she felt he was listening. A grandmother, also widowed by the tsunami, continues five years later to use the phone and to bring her grandchildren to speak to their grandfather. One of them says he hears his grandpa’s voice; children can be less reticent than adults to admit such a thing.

Some people speak and hang up. Others await a response. After the teenage boy’s visit, he convinced his siblings and their mother to make the trip. Though this family had been unable to talk about the death of their father and husband, in the garden outside the booth they gather and finally can talk and cry and laugh together about him.

Many people return again and again. Do they receive contact from the person they long to hear from? Are their words heard by the dead? Why do they return so many times? Why do so many of them cry? A forty-nine minute NHK documentary on YouTube (The Phone of the Wind: Whispers to Lost Families [1080p HD]) doesn’t answer these questions. But the faces and body language of people using the Phone of the Wind reveal much and no one in the film walks away looking disappointed.

In the age of cell phones it’s rare to even see a phone booth—but Sasaki’s idea incorporates a basic approach to encouraging contact with our dead beloveds by its focus on a particular place.

For me there are two such places. I linger in bed in the morning (some might say malinger), because I love the hypnopompic space between the world of sleep and dreams and the world of waking. It is here I feel most connected to Spirit and receive answers to questions and solutions to problems. It is also here that I commonly receive contact with my deceased daughter and mother and, occasionally, with others. The second place I am likely to receive contact is my altar which is a place I go every morning and evening to pray and to meditate and to listen inward.

If we long to make connection with someone dear who has died, we can create some version of our own “phone booth.” This spot could be a favorite tree or a sun-warmed rock large enough to lie down on. It could be a candle-lit desk with an open notebook and a pen, or a drafting table with paper and sumi ink or watercolor, someplace quiet we return to regularly, someplace where we don’t expect to be interrupted.

Placing an old phone in our spot could be just the action that gives us permission to speak freely to the dead and to listen for a response. We might be surprised by what happens.

The After Death Chronicles: True Stories of Comfort, Guidance, and Wisdom from Beyond the Veil. To be released October 6, 2017. Watch for pre-ordering in July. www.anniemattingley.com

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