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‘Wind phone’ nestled in Niagara forest helps grieving people speak to those they lost | CBC News

Linda-Rose Krasnor volunteers with grieving kids, through Hospice Niagara. She often takes her bereavement support groups into nature, where she finds people can feel more comfortable opening up about how they’re feeling. 

As of this week, she has a new spot to bring her young charges to — a spacious grove in the woods at Ball’s Falls Conservation Area where you can find a special phone to call deceased loved ones, tucked up beside the base of the Niagara Escarpment and some massive boulders.

Known as a “wind phone,” the old-school handset is mounted on a stand amid the trees, not far from the Twenty Mile Creek. It’s intended to be a place for grieving people to feel connection with their deceased loved ones, and is part of a worldwide movement that began in Japan in 2010.

Krasnor, a developmental psychologist before she retired, thinks the phone will be a vector for the preteen-aged kids in her current group to feel connected with the people they lost.

A person with chin-length hair and glasses smiles at the camera while standing in the woods.
Linda-Rose Krasnor volunteers with grieving kids, through Hospice Niagara, and is looking forward to bringing her group members to see the new wind phone. (Saira Peesker/CBC)

“I think there’s a sense of needing to say things and wanting to communicate, and still feeling a connection, and wanting a relationship, that kids are going to appreciate,” she said Wednesday, as the wind phone was revealed at an event at the Lincoln, Ont. conservation area. It’s a shared project of Hospice Niagara and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. 

Krasnor acknowledged, however, that some kids may have never seen a phone of this variety, with a handset and a dial: “I may have to do a demonstration.”

‘Connected to nowhere’

Sasaki Itaru created the first “phone of the wind” in northeastern Japan, while he was grieving his cousin’s death from cancer.

“The ‘Phone of the Wind’ is connected to nowhere, however talking to lost loved ones via the phone makes people feeling to be connected with their lost loved ones,” states the website for the original wind phone.

“The feeling of being connected with loved ones is an imagination created by the people’s broken heart, however, this imagination provides those people a hope to live.”

A push-button phone, mounted to a dark walnut cabinet that resembles a pay phone, attached to a cedar tree in a wooded area.
A wind phone was erected in New Maryland, N.B., earlier this year. (Tim Scammell)

It says the phone helps people communicate things they wish they had said while the person was alive. 

There are now more than 100 wind phones around the world, with particular concentrations of them in Europe and North America. The Ball’s Falls installation marks the first one in Niagara, with the nearest others in Ontario located in Mississauga, Port Franks and Lindsay. There are also several Wind Phones in New York State.

People ‘didn’t have a chance to say goodbye’ during pandemic

Melissa Penner, Hospice Niagara’s bereavement specialist, says she’ll use the region’s new wind phone to speak with her mom and her mother-in-law, who both died within a short time of each other. She envisions some people treating the wind phone like a grave site, particularly those for whom travelling to their loved ones’ resting places is onerous or impossible.

She adds that many people who lost someone during the pandemic didn’t get a chance for closure, and says this could help.

A man holds a rotary phone receiver in his hands in the woods on a snowy day.
John Riley set up a wind phone in Digby, N.S. (Robert Short/CBC)

“A lot of people during the pandemic didn’t have a chance to say goodbye or have a funeral, or their loved one died suddenly, so they may not have the opportunity to say goodbye,” Penner said Wednesday, noting it could also be a place to share new developments with people who have died. “Some people maybe have graduated, or got married or whatever – the joyful moments of, ‘Hey, I wish you would have been here. You wouldn’t believe what whoever did.'”

She says the private nature of the wind phone, perched at a beautiful spot in the woods, may appeal to people who are grieving but not comfortable seeking help.

“I hear often, ‘Oh I’m fine,’ but they’re not fine – they’re just not ready for a support group,” she said. “If people feel like that, this phone is a spot where maybe they can share the thoughts and feelings that are on their hearts, if they need a space to release that.” 


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