Connecting with the dead

June 10, 2019 · Print This Article

If you’ve ever experienced the grief from losing someone close, you know it leaves a longing, a sense of wanting to reconnect.

I’ve heard of some people trying different ways to reach out to the dead. A friend once told me about his experience with a medium which really did test the boundaries of coincidence. Personally, that doesn’t attract me.

But this longing to connect with lost loved ones has taken people to a new place. A white telephone booth at the bottom of a man’s garden in the small town of Otsuchi in northern Japan has become a go-to place to call up the dead. The resident behind the booth was grieving the death of his cousin when he decided to put a disconnected rotary phone in it. He would call his cousin’s number and speak into the phone believing the words would be carried on the winds. Its popularity has grown since the tragic 2011 tsunami.

Hearing the heart-breaking conversations of local residents attempting to speak to their dead wife or lost brother brings home the hope we all share of seeing, speaking, or just hearing from our loved ones again.

This hope hit me once. I worked with a dear friend and colleague for five years. We shared an office, a role, and much laughter in the school we worked in. We were known as the dynamic duo – we made a good team. One Friday, like any other, I said goodbye to her, wishing her a nice weekend. Little did I know she would never step into our office again. I would never receive that warm hug again. That weekend she collapsed, went into a coma and died. It was such a shock, so unexpected. I never got to say goodbye.

Following the sudden death of my friend, the absence of any “closure”, to use an American expression, really bothered me. It forced me into thinking about the future. Does the answer to reconnecting with loved ones lie somewhere in the future? That desire to connect, produced in me a hope that doesn’t want death to have the last say. Maybe this hope coaxes us to try and connect with the dead.

For me, this hope gives us nowhere to look but the future. A future that perhaps contains something more; where death is maybe not the last event.

I tried to find this hope at the funeral service of my dear friend. She was Jewish and so had a Jewish service and burial. It reminded me of another Jewish burial, where the same kind of future hope was expressed by a sister who had just lost her brother.

“I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day”[1], this sister said of her brother. Something about these words connected with me that day as I faced the coffin where the friend I had hugged so many times lay in rest. On the one hand, that short sentence resounded with the future hope I was searching for that day. On the other hand, a future resurrection seemed so distant, so disconnected from my experience.

But there was more to the story. The sister heard a voice speaking back to her: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die…Do you believe this?”[2]

These words bounced around in my head. The voice was the voice of Jesus. Like me, he was attending a Jewish burial. But what he did next was unexpected, unprecedented and completely unbelievable.

The Bible records that he brought this sister’s dead brother, Lazarus, back to life! Jesus had reconnected the dead with the living.

Sometimes, I muse on this story when I think about my dear friend Suzanne. I guess, for me, my hope of reconnection with my loved ones is a hope placed in who Jesus said he was: the resurrection and the life.

For me, my hope doesn’t lead me to mediums or telephone booths. It leads me to want to get to know this Jesus man a little more.


[1] The Bible, John 11:24 (NIV)

[2] John 11:25-26

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