My spouses grandfather is in the hospital and only has a couple days left to live. Last night we were there and my in-laws decided this would be a good time to preach to the their fleshly relatives, as they are the only ones in the family that are Witnesses. My father-in-law has not been active in the Witnesses, just attends meetings, so his ability to explain their faith is a little on the weak side. Anyway, I was sitting to the side, trying to stay out of the conversation and then I hear this at the end, "... my children and their mates still believe this too, even if they left the religion." Then people turned to me, and I set there about to laugh, but decided to take it further and responded, "... no we don't. Actually your beliefs could not be further from ours, then they are." I then did something I do not normally do, as I am a practicing Wiccan and make an effort not to preach my faith to anyone, but at this time I had to explain as I was put center stage. So I spoke up, "... actually I think the dead we leave the physical body and rejoin spiritual energy and some do have a hard time crossing. Maybe they died in a violent way, had serious regrets left behind, or they belonged to a religion that told them the what happened at their death would not happen and they sit for a time in denial or trying to get messages to those left behind to not make their same mistake. Yet, it is frustrating as those left behind are trained to ignore them and their signs, and if they did notice something they would think "demons." I believe that in time some of the energies that were relatives connect with those in the physical life again, to offer comfort or to see a momentous event in their life or maybe even greet them at their own death. For the most part, I think they stay away from the physical and move on for the most part. In time, I think those energies move to other levels of existence and some return to live another life, if they choose too." My spouses Christian relatives, actually enjoyed the thought and commented that it sounds a little like their belief in heaven and enjoyed the idea that we felt a ending of life in this life, was not the end to our existence.
My father-in-law set their with his jaw just opened, and in shock. I swear he thought I was a demon at that point and just could not believe I was not still a Witness in the heart and not the person he wanted to think I was. He went to my spouse later, his child and asked how they felt now. When the response was the same, he looked like his world was falling apart. I felt bad for him, actually, but we have never hidden our beliefs since leaving the religion and have symbols and posters all over our house. We opening mention what we are and even comment from time to time on how people who practice magick believe. Not in a "... in your face" manner, but more of commenting on a wrong portrayal in a movie or a comment made about demons, or someone saying Witches worship Satan, etc. Yet, I guess even though a decade has passed from our exit, he slept better at night telling himself that we were still the people he wanted us to be, and not the former and non-Witnesses we really are. It's funny, but I actually think that people who see us as no longer Witnesses on the outside, think we are still one on the inside. Maybe this makes them feel, "...when the end comes, their heart will still be good." I don't think it comes out in the open, until major life events happen and then it is a learning lesson they needed to accept, which actually works with my death belief, " ... I believe that in time some of the energies that were relatives connect with those in the physical life again, to offer comfort or to see a momentous event in their life ... " and perhaps a relative felt it was time they accepted something, like it or not, and while they were there to greet someone or give comfort, might as well kill two birds with one stone. I was glad to assist, but left a short time later as I did not really want to teach all the people around us our faith and feel like a Witness anymore, when I already showed I did not believe like them in the same evening.
I would bet though, if your relatives were put to a lie detector and asked about your beliefs, a lot think you still believe the faith ... no matter where your life went from your exit.