I recently listened to an extraordinary episode of the radio show/podcast called “This American Life.”
I am a regular listener and you may be too. But for those unfamiliar with it, the show each week picks a theme and tells stories built around that theme.
The reporting is impressive and the story-telling more so.
Part of the episode I heard told the story of those who survived the tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011, killing thousands, and leaving thousands more homeless and mourning the loss of their loved ones.
A survivor, bereft of his cousin, set up a telephone booth in his garden. It had a black rotary phone sitting on a shelf that was not connected to anything.
No wires, no cables, not even a recording of a dial tone.
He would visit the booth to talk to his dead cousin. It was his way of coping with the loss.
Pretty soon word spread and strangers who also had lost loved ones started to flock to what the narrator of the story referred to as his “wind telephone.”
The idea was that the wind would carry callers’ messages to their loved ones in the afterlife.
essay writing contests featured audio of the visitors talking into the phone.
Some would break down crying. Others would share the day-to-day happenings in their lives. Some would be silent for stretches.
The recordings were heart wrenching.
Notable among them was how some callers would tell their dead family members how they loved them — an expression of emotion and affection largely unheard of in Japanese culture.
I heard this show at something of a painful time of year for me.
Next month marks 10 years since my fiancée died.
I recall how she would be up during the night and leave her dirty soup bowl in the sink, unwashed, and how I would be irritated to wake up to it in the morning.
After she died I would have given anything to have her dirty soup bowl in the sink.
When my current wife and I first moved in together, I noticed she had this crazy irritating habit of leaving the cabinet doors open in the kitchen.
Now I see the cabinet doors open and I close them, smile and give quiet thanks that she is with me to leave them open.
I try to appreciate the big things (our time together) and to not let small moments go unremarked on.
As I have entered my 50s, I have gained an appreciation for the adage about life being too short.
Seize the moment today to express your affection and love to the people you care about.
Don’t wait until you have to rely on a wind telephone to say it.