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Phone to process grief proposed for Castlegar

Castlegar may get a wind phone.

It’s a tool for coping with grief that originated in Otsuchi, Japan but has since spread around the world, city council heard this week in a presentation from the hospice society.

Executive director Suzanne Lehbauer explained wind phones are ways of holding one-way conversations with loved ones who have died.

In 2010, Itaru Sasaki, a garden designer, set up an old telephone booth in his garden to speak to and feel connected to his cousin, who had died of terminal cancer. It was not meant to have any religious connotation, but simply a way to reflect on his loss.

“He said because his thoughts couldn’t be relayed over regular phone line, he wanted them to be carried by the wind,” Lehbauer explained.

In 2011, when a tsunami killed over 15,000 people in Sasaki region, he opened his wind phone to the public to let visitors call friends and family who died in the disaster. It has since been visited by 30,000 people.

Lehbauer said wind phones have since appeared in Ireland, the United States, and Canada, where they can be found in in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Vancouver Island and Langley.

She asked council for permission to add one in Millennium Park, explaining that in discussions with her son, they wanted to donate the phone and a plaque in memory of her mother. A service club would provide the phone’s wooden backing, so it would come at no cost to the city. They hope to unveil it during this year’s Hike for Hospice on Sunday, May 7.

“When I first saw the wind phone, I thought how can something so simple mean so much?” Lehbauer said. “But after reading remarks from people all over the world who have picked up that receiver and said a few words, it really is amazing.”

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