WHEN YOU CAN’T PHONE HOME

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.

 

4 Must Have Items On My Vacation Packing List

  1. Ibuprofen (Check)
  2. Clothes for any possible temperature(Check)
  3. Audio book downloaded (Check)
  4. Night-light (??)

Yup night-light. I’m not afraid of monsters under my bed, more of what goes bump in the night- like me- right into a bathroom door in an unfamiliar place.

I don’t sleep well when away-extra pain from travel, bad mattress, etc.so when awake, I use the rest room. The bathroom wasn’t far and I didn’t want to turn the big light on and wake my husband (occasionally I’m considerate like that). I thought I’d walk in safely by doing -you know- the zombie walk- with arms (or for me one arm and a cane) out in front, and, BAM! Walked right into the door. Now, I needed ibuprofen that I unpacked in the kitchen earlier.

While doing my best Ninja impersonation sliding up against wall (to avoid anything that might be in my path) from the bathroom to the bedroom door leading to the kitchen, it dawned on me-my phone has a flashlight! Once again, I prove that owning a smart phone does not necessarily mean I’m a smart user. Anyway…

I knew I wouldn’t fall back asleep, so I decided to read in the living room. For Christians it’s the season of Lent and I brought the book, Whispers of Rest, by Bonnie Gray with me. I first discovered her blog posts on (in)courage and felt a connection through our Asian American heritage. Her words drew me in and keep me inspired. I enjoyed her short daily chapters that ended with reflection questions. I answered them in a notebook, and then extended it to writing scenes for my current manuscript drafts.

That morning’s journaling along with my recent door ‘incident’, had me realize that I was searching blindly for any remedy/solution for the extra pain from my newer medical issues. I desperately wanted to at least feel the age I am instead of 30+ years more and feared the progression of my RSD symptoms. On the writing front, I had been researching for my manuscript drafts, yet still not sure which direction I wanted to go with them. Instead of hitting the proverbial wall, I hit a door (you know I’ve got to be different) 😊 Not that morning’s actual wooden door kind, but the exhausted, anxious, conflicted, pain filled, and defeated door-which hurts a heck of a lot more. It’s harder for me to open and walk through, that’s for sure.

You see, before our vacation, I felt depressed and worried that I wouldn’t enjoy our daughter’s last Spring break with us (she’s graduating from college in May-Wait, WHAT?!) 😊 My pain level prior to it made it difficult to leave the house for doctor appointments, let alone going somewhere fun. Thankfully, Hilton Head’s temperatures were much warmer than NC’s and we spent more time just being together than going places. However, we did see Captain Marvel (AMAZING Movie!!) but more importantly all of the cinema’s seats were recliners, Y’all! Perfect to keep my leg from swelling!

This year our mom/daughter beach day tradition began with a light breeze, warm sunshine, and hardly a cloud in the sky. As I watched and listened to the swishing of the lightly foaming waves reaching the shore, my body relaxed, and I sighed. It was as if the refreshing ocean air pushed out all that fight or flight that’s been stuck churning inside me in that one exhale. That’s one of the reasons that the beach is my happy place.

I love that I can’t see what’s beyond the horizon-reminding me that possibilities are endless. Something I easily forget. Later we watched two dolphins jump in and out of the water, almost as if to remind us it’s okay to take time to play without any other porpoise (sorry, couldn’t resist) in mind. The quiet moments just sitting with my daughter on our beach towels cradled by the warm sand, are just as precious as our conversations. I marveled at the fact that she was no longer the little girl wanting to build sand castles, but a young woman about to graduate college and start building her own life (although she still relied on me to pack the sun screen, water and snacks for the beach) 😊

Lately, my paths shifted way too often from the direction I originally intended. I had no control over which doors would slam shut. But I’m starting to realize it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Even if it may feel that I’m blindly walking into doors when I could have used a flashlight to light the way. Hindsight is always 20/20. Some days it seems I’m failing at each opportunity I step toward, and I think maybe I should just stop trying, already. But if I keep stepping forward, (okay, more like stumbling forward), on a different course than what I’m comfortable traveling, somewhere along the wall I eventually find a door and choose to step through it.

Sometimes what’s on the other side of that door, may be a blessing/success others will notice, but the more important ones are usually felt in our heart. It might just refresh my soul-allowing me to create, not for perfection, but just to enjoy creating for myself in the moment.

This feeling of contentment may not announce itself with a parting of the clouds, or bright light “Alleluia!” moment. Instead, it’s in the quiet form of a hug from a loved one, lunch with supportive friends, an inspiring comment to a blog post I wrote, a student telling me the story I wrote about someone I loved touched them deeply, or the comfort of just sitting on the beach next to my family. I will have times when no matter how much I prepare or how frantic I may feel; I cannot control or foresee all possible outcomes to a situation-that’s where prayer(flashlight) comes in. Although, I still highly recommend packing a night-light.

What would be the top 4 items on your packing list?

 

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

 

 

 

 

ESCAPE PLAN

I recently visited an escape room for the first time. If you haven’t been it’s a venue where you choose a theme location you would like to attempt your escape from. Being a fan of mystery novels, shows like Psych, Murder She Wrote, Columbo– basically anything on Hallmark Movies and Mystery Channel-I chose a murder mystery theme (I’m nothing, if not predictable). We arrived early and while we waited, I glanced around the reception area’s walls decorated with signs of the success rate of each room- ours was much lower than I anticipated.

In addition to that, we were only 3 people, so we joined a party of 5(all younger than us and some who had done an escape room before). But I wasn’t too worried, I mean, as I said I’ve watched every episode of Psych, Murder She Wrote, Columbo-more than well, let’s just say a lot, and as a child,I wanted to be Nancy Drew😊

I also knew that if we were stumped, we could request assistance. They (in this case employees) also watch you the entire time, can hear your discussions, and will jump in if they suspect you’re really stuck and too stubborn(embarrassed?) to ask for help. Oh! An important fact- you have only one hour to solve and get out of the room. Now, an hour may seem like a long time (like when waiting for brownies to bake), but when you are racing against a clock trying to win something it goes by as quickly as the flash of lightning that started off our murder mystery. And yes, the lights went out after our initial blast of thunder and lightning. Lights came back on, butler dead, and told that you must figure out who did it and how; or else you’ll be the ones arrested when the police arrive in one hour.

You start searching for clues, and some gave access to a couple of secret rooms-which was super cool! One thing I will tell you-if you need reading glasses-Y’all know who you are-remember to bring them-no I didn’t forget to bring mine with me. But I did forget them in my purse- in the locker outside our room (my husband, the Eagle Scout brought in his). And wouldn’t you know there were at least 5 places you needed to read combinations in teeny tiny letters/numbers. So that took my friend and I out of those clues entirely-not to mention making you feel older than you already do. But I digress….

Today they’re so many ways we can reach out to people all over the world, yet, we are mostly by ourselves and rarely engage face to face with others.  So now, you want to have fun, no phones allowed (which I liked), but also must work together with people you do not know. You must depend on hints they find and have confidence to state yours.

I found myself not always speaking up until I realized that it was me, they were going to arrest-yup, always be suspicious of the woman with the cane wearing cute shoes. Luckily, since they were watching/listening and the people we were with were very close to solving, we received an extra 2 minutes. We escaped and could say we (well, to be fair, the other 5) conquered that room!

I guess that’s kind of how I could sum up the months of January and February. I made it out. But only with the help of loved ones and with God watching over and guiding me through it all.

This past January marked 5 years since my Godfather (who was like an older brother to me) passed away, my husband’s grandfather passed away (a wonderful man who was 102 years old), and it all centered around my mother’s 4th anniversary. If that wasn’t enough, the cherry on this sundae of grief:  being ushered into a decade that I wasn’t really looking forward to entering. I spent a good part of the last few weeks in constant fight or flight mode. I felt uneasy, had panic attacks, and lost a lot of sleep (to dreams of my mom’s last moments in hospice).

This Valentine’s Day marked 18 years since a romantic restaurant dinner turned into peanut butter crackers and a can of soda in the ambiance of an emergency room. The Deep Vein Thrombosis(blood clot) with an easy 5-day hospital stay morphed into 31 nightmarish days and ended with a diagnosis of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)*. The horrible dreams that kept me up this month were about my time in the physical rehab hospital. Because at that time I was one of their youngest patients, staff placed me with an elderly woman and asked to watch her for them. Being a people pleaser, I of course, said yes. Let’s just say that the day I caught her smoking in our bathroom-did I mention she was on oxygen?  I lost it. All I could think was I survived a DVT in two places that nearly killed me only to be blown to smithereens at rehab! True story.

I also know that 2019 is a big year for changes. Not just my age, but my daughter is graduating from college and most likely will move away for a job. I worry about my new pain issue that the stent didn’t alleviate, and I need to find a focus for my writing. However, I have hope that I will walk through (okay limp through) this season of change and escape to the next year successfully, because of the people in my life and the strength God will give me.

❤ Thank you to my family, my friends near and far for their love, birthday wishes and going out of their way to make it a special time for me. I love you all very much. ❤

*RSD (also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) is a chronic, progressive nerve pain disorder. The sympathetic nervous system and immune system go haywire causing burning pain long after initial injury/damage has healed.

Also will be sharing at: Welcome Heart.