I called my dead mother the other day.
It was her birthday and I needed to talk, even though hearing her voice was impossible.
A robotic message explained that, “the call couldn’t be completed as dialed.” Not surprising since her phone line went dead shortly after her passing. But that hasn’t diminished my urge to call, share the details of life, and have her generous ear waiting. So, I tried again. This time I used a voice recorder on my cellphone.
“Hey mom, it’s me, Roby,” I said. “I’m calling to wish you a happy birthday.”
Tears started falling.
“I didn’t know how else to reach you today and I really needed to talk,” I continued with my eyes closed and voice shaking. “Because I miss you so much. Most of the time the feeling is bearable – usually a dull ache in the background of my awareness. Sometimes, though, it rises sharp and catches in my throat. Like today, your birthday, when I don’t know how to celebrate you and miss you at the same time.”
My one-way conversation with my mom lasted 6 minutes 4 seconds. I talked, and cried, and afterwards, felt a little better. The call acted like a sugar pill for the emotional aches and pains, making them a little sweeter and easier to swallow.
Calling the dead isn’t uncommon. There’s a phone booth in Otsuki, a Japanese town that lost 10 percent of its residents to the 2011 tsunami, containing a disconnected rotary phone for calling lost loved ones. One man set up the “wind phone” as a way to grapple with his cousins death. He opened the booth to neighbors after the tsunami hit. They also flocked to the phone as means for dealing with grief.
We find hope and relief from grief in different ways. On December 10th, I found it through a phone call.
P.S. Photo courtesy of MIRYAM LEÓN.