Into the whispering winds…

Into the whispering winds | In Jennie's Kitchen

I’m in constant awe how the invisible dots of our lives connect us. Loss is unique journey, and yet the longing, the need for closure, which sometimes is really the desire to keep a connection open, is a commonality. Last summer, I was listening to a rebroadcast of This American Life. The theme was One Last Thing Before I Go, and part one was about a “wind phone” belonging to Itaru Sasaki in Otsuchi, Japan.

Sasaki set up an old English phone booth up on his property, a line connected to nowhere, the cord wrapped up and tucked behind, as a way to stay in touch with his deceased cousin. After the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, leaving 19,000 people dead, some who lost loved ones began making pilgrimages to the phone booth.

This past Sunday, the girls and I went down to New Paltz to scour the antique center. Rotary phones were everywhere in the two shops, some even in working condition. Later that evening I was reminded of the phone booth in Sasaki’s garden.

So, the next day after I dropped the girls at school, I made my way back to Water Street Market in New Paltz. Attention was paid to the little details of each phone. The way it sounded as I dragged my fingers through each hole, dialing his old cellphone. The weight of the receiver in my hand. How it felt wedged between the crook of my neck and shoulder.

Black or beige?

I settled on one reminiscent of the phone my nana had near her kitchen table when I was a little girl in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Using the eraser of a pencil to make pretend calls was something I loved doing.

When I got home, I replaced the number in the center with a reminder of our real life super hero. Later that day after picking the girls up from the school bus, I shared the story of Sasaki’s wind phone, then showed them what I set up in our own family room. We think the little desk in my bedroom might be a better home for it in the future. We’ll see…

Into the whispering winds | In Jennie's Kitchen

I’m not sure if the girls will ever use it. Perhaps this is just another one of my silly attempts to come to terms with my own grief, a truly impossible task. Almost seven years later I understand you never really accept it, you just somehow learn to live with it, leading a dual life of sorts, tethered between the here and now, and the past.

What is most surprising in giving the girls this gift for Valentine’s Day is my own feelings about it. Knowing the phone exists provides a comfort I never expected. Death feels so permanent, so final, and yet when we hang up a call, only the verbal connection is severed. The words captured in the time spent talking bury into the burrows of our mind. Death is simply life’s way of hanging up the receiver; it doesn’t erase a person’s existence from your life.

There are many ways I’ll never be able to give our girls what they crave when it comes to their father, but just maybe a different kind of connection, a comforting one, can be built, their words carried through the whispering winds.

Listen to the full piece about Itaru Sasaki’s phone booth at This American Life here.

You can also watch the original NHK World documentary about it here.





  • Angie

    Oh my, I was blown away by that story. I heard it last summer as well, and I found myself driving around, extending my errands, just to hear the end of it. I’m glad you’re finding another way to connect to your husband. Grief is love without anywhere to go. Here’s hoping this gives some direction to your grief.

  • Patty

    This was such a beautiful post! I remember making his favorite pie, when you made that post/recipe available to us. This idea is so heart warming to me. We’ve all lost people close to us and yearn for some form of contact. My Dad died almost 36 years ago and I still find myself thinking about him, what I want to say to him, tell him, ask him, share with him. You are so right – you do learn how to deal with it. To separate the before and the after. I have so admired how you’ve handled this time and how you are striving to keep his memory alive and how to deal with your loss. Not only for yourself, but for your sweet baby girls. Please know that you are in my prayers.

  • Mary R

    Beautiful and touching. I cried at your words, ” and yet when we hang up a call, only the verbal connection is severed!” Grief lingers and wonderful memories also. Thank you for sharing your journey so that others might also learn more about their life!

  • Nora

    Jennie–there is no designated road or closure–the journey is a unique one for all–it is a sharp looking phone for whatever it will ultimately symbolize

    May you find peace more days than not, so that your girls will feel it, too.

    You are in my prayers.

  • Jen

    This is such a beautiful way to stay connected. Your girls may find it to be a comforting way to talk to their father. They can pick up the phone to tell them about everyday events, their science fair project, funny stories, their first broken heart, etc. I hope it brings him closer to all of you. Thank you for sharing your story with the world. I have been sending you love with every post I read.

  • Michelle Scrimgeour-Brown

    How beautiful. Thank you for continuing to share your heart; your vulnerability is inspiring.

  • Joyce Goodwin

    A phone, a connection to spirit because spirit never dies. That is how I see it Jennie, and when the sadness wells up, as it invariably does at times, you can go to the phone and connect with his beautiful energy. Such a brilliant idea. Sending love and hugs.

  • Tracey A

    Wouldn’t it be nice to make a phone call to heaven? I always talk aloud to Tom and my mom and others, when I feel especially lonely. It is amazing, even after all of these years, I can get such a wave of emotion! It comes at different times, often when my relationship is just not working out so well! I suppose that is human nature, to think back and remember the good times and forget the bad times. But sometimes I get a “feeling” or scent of someone or something (my mom’s cigarettes or Tom’s cologne and there is no explaining it) and it makes me smile and realize they are close. I can’t wait to see them when my time is up and hope they feel the same way. Many hugs, rainbows and feeling of love from beyond,


  • Lucie

    Such a heartfelt thing to do.

    I also heard that podcast.

    The notion of a place, a way to connect is such a good one.

    Many belessings.

  • Nancy

    Jennie, i first became a widow at age 28, just being with my love for 5 years…We were blessed with a beautiful daughter, who was age 4 when her father died…One year later I remarried to a wonderful man, and we shared 10 years together when he died…My daughter then was 15 yrs old. I will say we both had a few years after that were very filled with stress, fear, anger and so many emotions I can’t explain. I just post this to say that truly the grief of losing a husband and soul mate really never goes away…as you say “we learn to live with it”. I was 38 yrs old when my last husband died……I am now 74 yrs. old……I spent those years working as a RN and raised my daughter, who has blessed me with a wonderful grandson. I am now a retired woman who has many enjoyments, but I will say the one thing I miss most in my life is being able to share these years with a man who I would love and would love me….So, please, love your children, do all you can to make their lives productive and happy, but……think of yourself and the many years you will live ahead….look again for the love that we adults need to fill that “space”.