This past weekend I attended a memorial for a man who was happily married for 61 years. He was a lawyer, a musician, an animal rescuer, a father, and a husband. Above all, he was a good man, someone who knew that the most important thing in the world is to love.

This weekend, grief and connection have been on my mind.

Then I stumbled upon this story.

I thought to myself: If I could dial a number and talk to the dearly departed, whom would I call and what would I say?

Me to Y: I think about you every time I smell cinnamon and cloves; every time I roll out pastry. I remember your painted toenails in that hospice bed. I told others about how you waved me into your tiny bedroom in your son’s house and said, “This is all I have for all these years of working,” but no one I’ve told believes me. I watched that tear stream down your face, and even as a witness to this liquid emotion, I could not believe that someone who had never before shown me sadness was crying.

Me to J: Sometimes on the train I see a young man that I mistake for you. It is not closer examination that snaps me out of this trance; it is the fact that if you were still here, you would be in your 50s and not in your 20s with these curly-haired men who use iPhones to listen to music that you never lived to hear. Once I sat at your gravesite, eating sandwiches with S, talking, believing that if you heard us you would rise out of your grave and take a bite of cheese and join in the conversation.

Me to N: I knew so much more than you realized, about your life and how complicated and oh my god how messy these things could be. And how much this messiness could hurt those you never wanted to hurt. Even now, all these years later, I cannot name it. Some people say there is no Wrong or Right, there are only the consequences. You came from a tight-lipped family—a stoically silent family. Which makes me think that Audre was not always 100% right. Sometimes silence can protect you. I am not sure what kind of medicine you were given in your final days, but I hope it included a large dose of forgiveness.

Today’s Writing Prompt: And now I offer this to you, Reader: If you could dial a number and talk to the dearly departed human or animal, whom would you call and what would you say?