Calling the Dead

selective focus photography of black rotary phone

Photo by Pixabay on

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.

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14 Responses to Calling the Dead

  1. Avatar Kristen says:

    This feels refreshingly honest and is beautifully written. The struggles and pain we know in our relationships is with us every day, but days like today amplify that for some, and that’s pretty heartbreaking. I’m sorry for your pain and loss and wish you peace.

  2. Avatar Laurie says:


  3. Avatar J.D. Riso says:

    I love the idea of just holding that receiver and being with the silence. Listening, hoping. Sending you much love.

  4. Avatar Tricia says:

    Yes, something about it is very poetic – magical.

  5. Avatar jcareyreads says:

    What an image- that phone booth. Thanks for this glimpse into your heart. ❤️

  6. Avatar cynthia says:

    Brilliant and fascinating. The sound of the wind is something, isn’t it?

  7. Avatar Tricia says:

    Thank you! ❤️

  8. I find it amazing that the Japanese, known for their stoic nature, thought of this. It’s brilliant, as you say. And you’re right of course – we don’t need a phone to converse wit the dead…

  9. Love this, Tricia! Hope you do more with this entry!

  10. Avatar Tricia says:

    Thanks Tom!

  11. Hello dear Tricia, I haven’t checked the link yet, but I love the idea too. And your sense that you might just listen….that resonates as well. Even when praying I sometimes wonder if I talk too much where putting my heart out there and just listening might be the way to go….maybe the wind is an answer. XO

  12. Listening to the wind. Yes, that is a positive blessing, even when it is a last resort. You do have a challenge here, and thank you for your honesty. Actually, I have a tiny Japanese tori in my kitchen and from time to time (ignorantly mashing Buddhism and Shinto together) I have a tiny conversation with my dear dead people. It’s a tiny healing ritual without that iconic telephone.

  13. Tricia it’s amazing to me that I’d read this heartfelt and moving post on your blog at this time. As you know, we’ve had a number of deaths in our family recently, and one that hit me particulary hard was my sister. We were the two middle children of 4, and grew up as partners in crime. We were always extremely close, and one of our traditions was routine phone calls. The calls we never about big stuff, they were just about the normal, day-to-day BS that we both went through. I miss my sister every single day, and most of all I miss our phone calls. I wish I could pick up the white phone and talk to her now. ~James

  14. James – so sorry you guys have been having a rough run of things. As you so beautifully put in your last post, the losses increase with age. Grief is almost like a country – and we are reluctant visitors. But it’s not without beauty, even with the pain. Grief is about love, isn’t it? And yes, for that phone… maybe we need to start something…

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