Copyright The Japan News Yomiuri

Copyright The Japan News Yomiuri

As I attempt navigating the grief journey once again with the recent loss of my Dad, I think about a recent BBC podcast, Heart and Soul. The episode discussed a small town in Northern Japan-Iwate prefecture. It wasn’t about the horrible damage sustained from the earthquake and tsunami that took 2,000 lives in 2011. Instead, the podcast focused on the love that their surviving residents have for the loved ones they’ve lost. Even though their loved ones are not here physically, residents have a unique way to connect with them.(There’s also a great NHK program about this topic).

In Iwate, a white telephone booth overlooks the sea in Itaru Sasaki’s yard. Yes, an actual phone booth with a rotary phone (not connected ). In Japanese it’s called “kaze no denwa” meaning phone of the wind. A sign greets you as you enter the phone booth with the words, “Welcome, I’ve been waiting for you.”

Sasaki-san actually began building the booth, when his cousin passed away in November 2010 and finished it shortly after the 2011 tsunami. Since then, over 20,000 people have visited to connect with their lost loved ones. I imagine that in such a digital age, the very act of using the rotary dial gives a calming mindfulness before sharing pieces of their heart.

Listening to the podcast, two memories came to mind. The first, took place when the woman I knew as my Grandmother passed away in Japan. My Mom and I would call my Grandmother’s number and just listen to the familiar ringing across the ocean.We pictured her picking up the phone and saying hello to us. It was our way to let her know we still were thinking of her. We needed a connection. I also remember the somber day when I called that number and heard the message that the phone was no longer in use.

My Grandmother & I, Tokyo. Copyright KathleenBurkinshaw

My second memory is that I saved one of my mom’s voicemails so that I can still hear her voice and ‘speak’ with her whenever I want/need to.

When my Dad passed away 11 days ago, my Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) pain flare prevented me from going up north to see him in the hospital. However, the wonderful nurses kept me updated by phone. More importantly, when hospice services commenced the day before he passed away, I had a God-Nudge(instead of a ‘God Wink’), for lack of a better word, to call him. When I did, the kind nurse held the phone to my father’s ear for a 15-minute conversation. Well, not exactly a conversation, I mostly babbled on about memories of my childhood with him and my Mom. He did respond and it was the last real conversation I had with him lucid. My daughter also had a chance to speak with him.

On the morning of the 31st, I called to check on him. I spoke only a minute or so with him. He was drowsy from medication yet, zealously enjoying an orange Popsicle. His favorite flavor. 😊

Later that day, I experienced another overwhelming God-Nudge to call and check on him. The nurse said all vital signs stable, he was resting comfortably, and nothing may happen until the evening or the weekend. Still, I asked if she would hold the phone to his ear so I could speak to him. She did and also held his hand, giving him the feeling that I was physically at his side. I had a chance to say who he’d be seeing in heaven and some things I didn’t get to say in the past few years we were estranged (his choosing not mine). I told him I forgave him (I meant it), loved him (I loved him, not his choices), and would always be his ‘little girl’. And to the shock of the nurse, he went to heaven right then and there.

copyright KBurkinshaw

As devastating as that moment was, I like to think that he waited for me to show how much I meant to him. To show me that he loved me despite some of his actions in the past. It’s a blessing for me and what I try to remind myself of when guilt for not being there rolls in. I am now dealing with anxiety attacks and the memories of the last few days with my mom have returned with a vengeance. It feels like I am losing her all over again along with my Dad.

However, the most difficult realization for me is that the two people who brought me into this world are no longer here. It can be like a punch in the gut without warning hitting me at any point during the day, or night. I know and cherish that I have my loving husband and daughter, a loving extended family and friends, but it’s not the same connection. There’s a hollowness in my heart right now, that I know, in time will fill with the loving memories instead of breaking from the trauma of losing them. I remind myself and find solace in knowing that Jesus knew me before I was born and is always with me.


So, I may not have a “kaze no denwa”, but that doesn’t stop me from talking to them during the day and/or night. I hope my messages of love and how much I miss them swirls upward to my family in heaven. I take comfort that someday in the distant future, I will hear my parents say, “Welcome, I’ve been waiting for you!” ❤

In memory of David Hilliker 12/29/1937 – 5/31/2019- Airman Second Class and Crew Chief of 90th bomb squadron, US Air Force, loving husband, Jet Mechanic/Quality Control,Park Caretaker, and loving Grandpa. But most importantly- my Daddy ❤ ❤

Copyright KathleenBurkinshaw


I’m also sharing this post at:  Welcome Heart.


26 thoughts on “WHEN YOU CAN’T PHONE HOME

  1. Katheleen, you write your heart felt emotions so beautifully. You are so brave and strong. When saddness grips you, remember all the good things and hold them close to your heart. I loved reading about the phone booth, also! Sending hugs for each day as you move forward.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Constance, thank you very much. I love knowing that you also talk to your parents and feel their presence often. Your kind words definitely give me a sense of solace. Love and hugs back to you. p.s. I know they must be so very proud of you ❤


  2. Dear Kathleen. I came looking for your website because I had a SCBWI-related question for you. What I found instead was a beautiful love story that will be with me for a long time. I do not know you, but please know I am so sorry for your loss and for your heartbreak. I, too, heard that podcast…I happened to hear it soon after the loss of my beloved father-in-law, last year.

    Sending wishes of comfort and love to you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Dawn, Thank you so much for visiting my blog. Your kind words truly touch my heart. I am so glad that you have heard that podcast before.I’m so sorry for the loss of your father-in-law. I’m sure that the podcasts message has helped you as well. Sending wishes of comfort and love to you as well.<3 Also, if you still had a SCBWI-related
      question, please let me know if I can help.


  3. What a beautiful post, Kathleen. There are some losses that never leave your heart. I never knew my father, but he’s still in my heart, and though my mother and I had not the warmest connection, I do miss her 37 years later. But the death of our older daughter 36 years ago, is what hits the hardest. Though I’m not really affiliated with any particular religion, I do believe I have a connection with those who’ve gone before and can feel their presence still. Hugs and love to you, Kathleen. Sarah

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Sarah, thank you so much for your kind words of comfort. I am honored that you shared your greatest loss, of your daughter, with me. I am so very sorry. Yes,I truly believe that a definite connection with your loved ones are there, in your heart, your memories, and your soul. That bond cannot be broken. I am sure she is very proud of all that you have done. Sending hugs and much love to you as well, Sarah. ❤


  4. What a loving tribute to both of your parents. They gave you a legacy of kindness and a loving heart that continues through you and is reflected in your writing. Your readers and friends are the beneficiaries of that love. I believe they are and will always be with you. Take care, my friend. One day at a time.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Dear Kathleen,
    I am very happy that God nudged you to call your Daddy and tell him that you forgave him and that you loved him. That gave him peace so that he could let this world go. I love the phone booth for people to call those who’ve passed on. So very helpful in our emotions to have a tangible way!

    May God bless you and heal you!
    Love, Joan

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joan, thank you so very much. Yes, I’m so grateful for that blessing. Yes, the phone booth is a wonderful way to continue a connection. Hugs and love to you ❤


  6. Linda Andersen Gutheil says:

    Kathy, I am sorry for your loss. One thing I do believe is that you will always find comfort in knowing that you did call home. You did your best to restore your connection and you did say what you needed to before your dad passed. So glad you had that opportunity. Thanking the good Lord for that, as I am sure you are too. Love you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Linda, thank you so very much. I needed to read your words today. Yes, you are right and I am thanking the Lord for that. I am also thanking him for your friendship. Love you right back ❤


  7. Joanne Viola says:

    Kathleen, such a beautiful post and memory you have shared. How precious that you would have connected with your dad in a way which must have brought him peace and comfort. May God, our Father, comfort your heart in the days ahead.

    Liked by 2 people

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