I haven’t been able to stop thinking about something I saw about a week ago on BBC News. On a hill in Japan there is a white telephone booth where the grieving go to call their deceased loved ones. The phone is located in northeastern Japan near to where thousands of souls were lost in the 2011 tsunami. Lives, whole villages, were wiped out in that nightmare wave. The booth is white and looks to be on a hill in the middle of nowhere and the phone connects to nowhere and nothing except the hearts of the grieving.
You can watch it for yourself here but grab a tissue first. It’s a brilliant, poetic idea. A universal, non-denominational but literal space and ritual for the grieving. For those of us without a clear faith or physical grave to visit, it’s a beautiful notion.
I’ve been thinking about who I would call, what would I say? Of course, I sometimes ‘talk’ to those who I loved who died – mostly Rob and Neil – usually when I see something around the house or yard that sparks a memory of them. It’s not all sweet words, I assure you but I am heartened that my memories become more loving with the passage of time. But neither left unintentionally, gently and they both left some lingering havoc behind.
I am writing this on Father’s Day and Instagram and Facebook is filled with images of both living and gone dads captioned with proclamations of love and appreciation. I hate to be a spoiled sport since I was lucky enough to get this sweet treatment from my daughter on Mother’s Day and loved it, but these holidays can be hard for many of us with problematic relationships. I hit the jackpot on that – especially with the departed men in my life beginning with my father. Yes, obvious connections there and endless opportunities for the couch.
So what would I say into the telephone on the hill? I have questions. I don’t think I’d be like that dear, sad man calling his lost son, lovingly speaking speaking into the receiver. I imagine myself uncharacteristically quiet on the end of that phone line, waiting, listening and hoping for explanations, maybe apologies. And there would be silence or maybe the sound of the wind. Still, I’d try it.