How To Communicate With Your Dead Loved Ones
How To Communicate With Your Dead Loved Ones – I started leaving voicemails about a month after my mother died, last February, during one of the darkest days of the pandemic for my family. My teenage daughters mourned their mother after being cut off from friends and school. When we lived together, my husband and I had a fight and broke up. As their world was already falling apart, I couldn’t help but reveal my own grief as I determined not to fall in front of my daughters. It seemed to be stuck deep in my chest, unable to find a place on the surface.
After my mother died, my younger sister reminded me that my mother’s voice was still on the message on her cell phone, and no one had turned it off yet. So one afternoon while I was walking my dog outside, I called the number and heard her say, “Please let me know after the beep.” Of course, these were common words. But my mother’s voice was clear, consistent, precise. When the phone rang, I started talking, then cried for the first time since her funeral.
How To Communicate With Your Dead Loved Ones
I filled out a two-minute voicemail, talking about how much I missed him, how much I needed him, until it stopped. There was something about the physical aspect of speaking out loud, like I had done with my father, who died nearly twenty years earlier, that calmed my grief. The air rose in my lungs, my voice trembled, and I heard my own words in my ears. It worked like a spoken prayer: it slowed me down, gave voice to my pain and loss, and in the process brought me closer to someone I could no longer see or touch.
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After that first message, I kept calling for weeks. Sometimes I would tell him small things. My oldest daughter keeps a picture of the two of them on her desk at college. The youngest became violent on the soccer field. Over time, I would sometimes call from my office in the afternoon: “Mom, that’s when I usually call. I will try to make a funny story for you. Let’s talk about bad weather. As I talked, I imagined him looking out the window, 380 miles away, staring at the sliding glass doors of his bedroom. On walks, I sometimes talked about more serious things—my marriage, my worries. I cried as if I already knew what was going on, I just needed to resonate with him.
My posts are inspired by the Wind Phone near Otsuchi, Japan, which I read a few years ago. A white phone booth with a black dial turned off was designed by a landscape architect in 2010 to commemorate the death of his cousin. A year later, when the tsunami hit Japan, tens of thousands of people started calling and calling their loved ones who died in the storm. In the years since then, people have coined the concept in response to other disasters like the warehouse fire in California or Covid-19. There are examples of the Appalachian Trail and ski slopes in Colorado. Many bereaved people tell a spouse, a sibling, a friend that they miss their voice, that their children are okay, that they doubt time will ever heal.
Eventually, I realized there was a pattern in my messages: They often indicated how my mother would respond or what advice she would give. It’s like buying a piano and taking lessons again. “I know,” I said to the nobody’s receptionist on the other end, “how your reaction is going to be: ‘Oh, I’m so excited for you, honey.’ This is true. “After pointing out that it would be too painful to repeat my siblings’ mother’s Christmas traditions, I left my mother a message that came back: ‘Don’t be so sentimental, you’ll tell me. “After a rough week, I was feeling drained and my kids were struggling, I told her, “I know you’re going to go to Mass and stop taking everyone’s emotional stuff. It’s none of your business.” At that point, I trusted his words, something I’ve done most of my life.
My personal cellphone wouldn’t last forever. My mom’s phone bills were about $100 a month, so it didn’t make sense to spend over $1,000 a year to maintain a voicemail box. But by going with him, I wasn’t going to change my mind. It was another step, like selling his house and donating his clothes.
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At the end of last year, I instructed my older sister, who handles my mother’s accounts, to close the account. The voicemail served as a transitional object in the first months after her death, helping my mother move away from her body and into another form where her wisdom, warmth, and health flowed like a calm stream. I knew I could continue the habit of talking to my mom without a phone. However, I didn’t know if the line would go down immediately or in a few weeks, and I didn’t want to hear “This number is no longer available.” So I left her one last message: “Mom, I miss you. But I know what you’re going to say: “Okay, honey. It’s time to move on. ” At first, long and small voices were heard in the prison cell, as if they were pressed into a telephone. But as I talked, they slowly became more like themselves. They told me personal stories that I had never heard before. I learned about the first (and certainly not the last) drunkenness of my father. My mother said that she was having trouble because she was late. They gave me life advice and told me about my childhood as well as their childhood. It was impressive.
“What’s your worst?” So I asked my father if he was in a clear mood.
“The worst science is the perfectionist. I can’t stand chaos and disorder, it’s always hard, especially when I’m married to Jane.
And then he laughed—I forgot for a moment that I wasn’t actually talking to my parents, but to their digital counterparts.
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These moms and dads live in an app on my phone as a voice assistant created by California-based company HereAfter AI and run over four hours of conversation, each talking about their lives and memories. (For the record, I’m not a mom
Disorganized.) The purpose of the company is to allow the living to communicate with the dead. I wanted to try what it was.
Similar technology that allows you to “meet” the dead has been a staple of science fiction for decades. This idea has been preached by the fathers and priests for centuries. But now, thanks to advances in AI and voice technology, it’s becoming a reality and increasingly accessible.
My real flesh and blood parents are still alive and well; virtual versions are designed only to help you understand the technology. But their avatars peek into the world where they can talk after their loved ones or simulacrums are gone.
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From what I can gather from nearly a dozen conversations with my parents, it can be really easy to support loved ones. It’s not hard to see the appeal. People may turn to digital copies for convenience or to mark special occasions such as anniversaries.
At the same time, the technology and the world that enables it are not surprising, and the ethics of creating a virtual version of someone are complex, especially if that person has not consented.
For some, this technology can even be alarming or overwhelming. I started talking to a man who created a virtual version of his mother and spoke at her funeral. Some people argue that talking to digital versions of lost loved ones can prolong your grief or soften your perception of reality. When I talked to my friends about this article, some of them became physically ill. There is a common, deep-seated belief that we are in danger of dying.
I understand these concerns. I especially found it uncomfortable to talk to a virtual version of my parents. It’s still considered a bit of a crime to talk to someone’s avatar, especially if it’s someone in your own family.
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But I’m only human, and these worries are eventually washed away by the more terrifying prospect of losing my people.
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