I've had a wonderful lunch thanks to Linda, and now I'm ready, so here's the final part of my story:
By 1992, both our boys had left home, and Ron and I were all alone in our 3 - bedroom house, so we decided to apply for something smaller. We had never bought our home, a decision I regret now, but 3 bedroom counci houses were, and still are, very much in demand, and within a few months we had been offerred. and accepted a ground - floor flat quite near our kingdom hall, moving in there in early 1993. I had been pioneering then for almost 26 years, and expected to carry on until the end of the system or my own death. I was busier in the truth than I had ever been, even during the pre - 1975 influx of mambers. There were very few pioneers in our circuit then, and only 3 in our congregation, so we all had plenty to do. By that time I had brought 18 people, excluding family, into the organisation, and apart from one couple who left after the 1975 disappointment, all of them were still in. It was about this time that I conducted my strangest - ever study, with an elderly couple living on the street we had moved on to a few months previously. They were a little eccentric, to say the least, even unconventional. They were animal lovers, and in their two bedroomed house they kept 4 dogs, 9 cats, numerous mice and rats, which made me shudder, even though they were caged, at least 6 canaries and a goat, which they said was for keeping their lawn short! The goat was mainly outside, but came in the kitchen at night, and whenever I went to study with them, we had to sit in a room with all the animals, apart from maybe a few cats, present, including the goat! It was like a visit to the zoo,and the smell was pretty bad, but they were keen on the study at first, but stopped it abruptly when the sister I took with me told that them animals wouldn't live forever in paradise, only humans. They had assumed that because animals survived the flood, they would survive armageddon, and dead ones would be resurrected, and wouldn't accept that when their animals died they wouldn't see them again. We tried to show them from the scriptures why this was so, but they wouldn't budge, and our zoo visits were curtailed! Ron commented later that perhaps they brought all their pets in on the study to learn the truth as well, an angle which I hadn't considered, but quite possible nonetheless. They were still friendly towards me after that, but never resumed their study again.
Desoite losing that study, things were still going well for me on the pioneering front until October 1995, when Ron sufferred a stroke, and though he made a partial recovery, he lost the use of his left arm and was never able to speak properly aterwards. He was understandable, but his speech was slurred, as though he was drunk all the time, and I had to give up pioneering to look after him. He was unable to work, so I took a part - time job in a shop in Derby city centre to help make ends meet, as we had very little in terms of savings, having always put kingdom interests first. I had plenty of support from friends, Linda in particular, and Trevor was a huge help then, as he was still a JW. He used to drive us to all the meetings, and help me with the shopping almost every week. Ron did recover a bit, and still had a reasonable quality of life, and we all hoped that he would make a complete recovery. I still managed to put in a fair amount of service time, other sisters helped out with my calls, and we were coping fairly well unti December 2000, when Ron sufferred another stroke, more serious that the last one. He was in the hospital over the Christmas period, but seemed to be getting a little better, and we had hopes of getting him home in a few weeks, but in the early hours of January 1st 2001, he had his third and final stroke, and passed away peacefully a few hours later. He was only 59, and we had been married just over 35 years.
I was totally devastated by his death at such a relatively young age. All the plans we had made, for me to pioneer for as long as the system lasted, and him to join me when he retired, had been scotched by his first stroke, but we knew the new system was near, when Ron would be restored to perfect health, and that thought had sustained us during the years after his first stroke. Now he was gone, and I knew I wouldn't see him again until the resurrection. I had a great deal of support from my many friends and family in the orgamisation at the time, and I was rarely alone for more than an hour during the days immediately after his death, but nothing could help with the terrible loneliness I felt at night, whne I went to my bed alone, after so long with Ron. The only thing that sustained me during that time was the certain hope that I would see him again in the resurrection once Armageddon was over, and now I know that the watchtower is a man - made religion founded on a falsehood, I no longer have that hope. I feel cheated by the liars that taught me those false promises, and encouraged me to keep striving for their interests under the guise of serving Jehovah. They have a very great deal to answer for.
As time went on, all but a few people stopped visiting me, but I expected that, and feel no bitterness because of it. In some ways I welcomed it, as I neede some time to myself, and I started to get out on the service more as the year progressed, while still working to help make ends meet. Just over 2 years after Rons' death, I had a shepherding visit, and the elders suggested that, now I had had time to gather myself, maybe it was time for me to consider rejoining the ranks of regular pioneers. While this was something of a goal for me once I had retired, I didn't feel able to do it while I was still working, and the elders accepted this, but as the months passed started to exert a little pressure on me to try and at least auxillary before I reached retirement age. One elder used the line "don't you think that this is what Ron would have wanted you to do? He supported your pioneering all those years, don't you owe it to his memory to at least try?". I thought that was an unnecessarily callous remark to make, as I was still missing Ron very badly, and that whole period, with the pressure from the elders and the circuit overseer, who had also suggested a pioneering "comeback" to me, was a diificult and unhappy time. I did not, however, return to pioneering at the time, but promised the elders I would sign up again once I'd retired, so they were satisfied, if not entirely happy with that arrangement, and backed off.
The pressure they had put me under, distressing as it was, had not shaken my faith. I was still absolutely convinced that I had the truth at this time. I knew people were leaving the truth, Trevor had gone by then, and I could sense that there were some problems within the congregation, and perhaps with the organisation as a whole, but I felt we still had Jehovahs blessing, so on I went. The first real seeds of doubt, and ones I couldn't ignore, as much as I wanted to ignore them, surfaced last year, when the elders dealt very badly with a child abuse scandal within our congregation. I know that ths issue was the catalyst for the doubts Linda had been having for some time that got her to examine the JW teachings again, and eventually to leave the truth, but I ignored my feelings, reasoning to myself that the elders are imperfect men, and thus susceptible to errors.
I was very concerned last summer when Linda started to miss meetings, and really upset by her subsequent disassociation last November. In some ways, I saw it as the second - biggest loss of my life, after my husband, as she had long been one of my dearest and most supportive friends, and now she was gone. She was gracious enough to send me a letter explaining why she had left, which I still have, and I was most distressed when the gossip started about her last year. Many malicious, untrue rumours were circulating the hall, the main one being that she had left so that she could commit fornication with Trevor, which I knew was untrue at the time, though they are together now, and to my great delight, truly happy. I challenged the PO about the rumours, and he was most discourteous in his dismissal of my concerns, saying "well, what does it matter if they are true or not? she's abandoned Jehovah, so what do you expect us to do, praise her?" I was shocked by his attitude, and looking back, I know it was that conversation, short as it was, that set me on the road out of the organisation.
In the spring of this year, I decided to defy the elders rules, and try to contact Linda, so I wrote her a letter and gave it to her mother, a lovely lady who has never been a JW, and thankfully Linda replied, so we started meeting discreetly at her home. I read some of the articles on this board, and watched some of the videos on silentlambs, and was stunned at the extent of the cover - up by the organisation regarding child abuse.. Trevor lent me Crisis of Conscience, and I started to miss meetings. Once I'd finished COC, it was obvious that all my years in the JWs had been spent in a man - made religion, and I knew I could no longer be a part of it, whatever the cost. I am not a liar, so how could I knowingly preach lies on the ministry? Iknew my conscience would not allow that. I wanted to fade, but the elders started hounding me, despite my request, in writing, to be allowed some time to myself. I would have thought that was a small thing to ask after a lifetime of faithful service, but I was wrong. My JW son visited me, and saw the copy of COC, which I admitted to have read, and a few days later he phoned me,asking me to go to his home on the pretext of a family emergency. I rushed round there as quickly as possible, to find, instead of an emergency, the PO and another elder waiting for me, my own son had set me up! I was furious, but spoke to the elders long enough for them to establish that I was having a crisis of faith, and then left. Later that week, the PO called to invite me to a meeting with 3 elders at the hall the following friday -a judicial committee! I decided to save them the trouble by writing a letter of disassociation, which they didn't want to accept, but which I informed them would be forwarde to the UK HQ, so they announced me as being no longer one of Jehovahs Witnesses a few days ago.
So after almost 60 years, 28 of them as a pioneer, during which time I have guided 25 people into the organisation, many of whom are still in, I am no longer a JW. My son rang me the day after the announcement to inform me that he would now be shunning me, and I would no longer be permitted to see my grandchildren, and I am expecting a lot more of the same in the coming weeks and months. It is,of course, heartbreking to be denied access to my family, and to lose friends, but nonetheless I feel that I have made the right decision in leaving. I don't feel that all my years in the Organisation were a waste of time, after all I had a wonderful husband, 2 fine boys and made many, many friends, but I do feel I could have used them better if I'd never been a JW. As for my future, apart from retiring in November, I have made no real plans. I will take each day as it comes, and enjoy it as a free person. I am very happy to be on this forum, and looking forward to meeting some of you at nexr month's Apostacurry. I have of course lost most of my friends now, but still have Linda and Trevor, the best two friends I have ever had and will ever have. I owe those two far more than I could ever even start to repay, they have helped set me free after 60 years of slavery, and I can never thank them enough for that.
that's my story, I hope you enjoyed it, I certainly benefitted from writing it
all my love