Text Your Dead
Text Our Dead took place from late December to early Ferbruary of 2021, during what appeared to be the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. This project provided an active phone number, once displayed above, where a person could send texts to people who have died.
The original description of Text Our Dead is below. A fuller explanation of the project can be found in this piece on Essay Daily and in this interview on Wisconsin Public Radio.
Q: What is this?
This is a chance to text someone who has died.
Q: What should I text?
Text what you want to say. Or what you didn't. Ask what you want to ask. Or didn't. Text about your dreams or your day or your dog. Send a blessing. Send a curse. Share with your dead your grief, your memories, your love.
Q: Will I get a text back?
Not from this number, which isn't the same as saying you won't hear back.
Q: Will you do anything with my number?
No, your number won't be saved, shared, or otherwise used.
Q: What about my text?
It might get shared on social media as a way of helping us connect with our dead.
Q: What if I don't want my text shared?
Include "don't share" in your text.
Q: Where did you get this idea?
It's inspired by Itaru Sasaki's "wind phone." After Sasaki's cousin died in 2010, he built a telephone booth in his garden. It has a black rotary phone. The phone isn't connected to any line. Sasaki calls it "kaze no denwa," the wind phone or the phone of the wind. It's the wind that carries your words to your dead. The wind phone became a destination for mourners after a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami hit the coast of Tōhoku, the region of Japan where Sasaki lives. On March 11, 2011, nearly 16,000 people died, another 2,500 went missing, and almost half of a million were displaced. Since that day, thousands of people have visited the wind phone and called their dead. You can find a longer explanation here.
Q: Is there anything else I should ask?
When you die, and you will, what will you hope to hear from the living?