Nestled in a copse of trees on the corner of Ridgebury Road and George Washington Hwy. to the right of the Ridgebury Congregational Church is a phone that no longer rings but offers a bit of respite to those grieving a lost loved one.
Thousands of these disconnected old rotary telephones - attached to trees, mounted on posts, or housed in specially built phone booths - have spread across the U.S. in recent years. They have been popping up in neighborhoods, National Parks, along hiking trails, and, recently, across the river from the new World Trade Center in Manhattan. Called Wind Telephones, they provide dedicated spaces to address grief in a tangible way in a culture that’s increasingly focused on “moving on” from loss.
The first Wind Phone in Fairfield County, the second in the State of Connecticut, is a cream-colored wall phone circa 1962 that will be installed in a custom designed pole-mounted housing. It is being given to The Meetinghouse by Lynda Shannon Bluestein of Bridgeport, CT.
When I first heard about the original Wind Phone in Japan, I was moved by the power of this tangible object, an old rotary telephone, as a tool to support grieving ones to stay connected to those they have lost. I became focused on bringing one or more Wind Phones to Connecticut - and when I wrote about the idea to friends across the US, old rotary telephones started arriving in the mail and by UPS. I now have six of them in a variety of colors.
“I have recently been enrolled in Hospice care,” said Lynda, who has terminal cancer. “My biggest concern is now for my family - my husband Paul, my adult children Aimee Holmstrom, and Jake Shannon, and my twin granddaughters Abigail and Josie Shannon and how they will deal with their grief. In the past few months, Wind Phones have become a family project as we openly talk about death and dying, and how to stay people can connected to those they've loved and lost.
“My son Jacob is now temporarily living with my husband and me to help us with all the hard things my late-stage cancer had brought to our lives. He has his own business in Colorado that he is managing remotely so that he can bring his building, construction, and woodworking skills to Ridgebury. Creating the housing for this first Wind Telephone is a shared passion of ours, and the process of preparing a home for it on the grounds of the Ridgebury Congregational Church - The Meetinghouse - has been nothing short of amazing. The Minister and Executive Director, Rev. Debbie Rundlett, the Congregation’s Board President, Heather Cochrane, and friends in construction and landscaping have made this a joyful if often challenging project. After all, this first Wind Phone in Fairfield County, is being installed on historically significant grounds. The congregation first gathered on this site in 1760.
Before dreaming of planting Wind Telephones around Connecticut, Lynda was deeply involved in advocating for passage of a Medical Aid in Dying (MAID) bill. Lynda has terminal Cancer and in May of 2122 sued the state of Vermont to drop their residency requirement for Act 39, Vermont’s aid in dying law, and in March of 2023 Vermont waived the residency requirement for her, part of the settlement of a lawsuit in which she had argued the restriction was unconstitutional. In May the VT Legislature amended Act 39 removing the residency requirement for all. Oregon, the first state in the US two have enacted MAID legislation soon followed suit and removed its residency requirement.
Lynda is the first-ever recipient of the Completed Life Initiative ‘s Pioneer Award. “The award honors an individual who has successfully advocated to expand a person’s ability to direct their end-of-life care, and who has, by their courageous example, empowered all individuals to live a full and complete life. This month she appears on the cover of Compassion and Choices magazine, as one of the heroes of the movement.
A brief worship service at The Ridgebury Congregational Church at 605 Ridgebury Road in Ridgefield, Ct will begin at 10 am. The Dedication of the Wind Phone just outside and in front of the church will begin around 10:45 am followed by a reception.
All are welcome. All are invited.