Back in 1959 I became best friends with a fellow who was instrumental in my becoming a Jehovah's Witness. Yesterday I attended his mother's funeral.
From the time I was 12 years old I became a part of Johnny's family and got to know his mother, Jennie, very well. In fact, she was more instrumental in convincing me there was intellectual merit to the reasoning process of consulting the bible and drawing JW conclusions than any of the arguments Johnny and I had.
Fast forward a bit.
It took me four years of going to Johnny's house and attending the Kingdom Hall to go the whole nine yards and become baptised.
I made many friends among the brothers and sisters and my purpose and expectations about the full measure of my life included those very people. We shared good times and bad and I knew them and their faces and their character as I felt they grew to know mine.
Fast forward more.
When I reached my 20th birthday I was required as a faithful JW to deal with the Selective Service and the draft. I went to prison from 1967 through the middle of 1969. Only one other brother from my Kingdom Hall did the same.
When I got out I married Johnny's sister and started a family. I full-time Pioneered as well.
Fast forward more.
The awful paying jobs I had as a minimum wage slave and the size of my family made it impossible for me to continue my 100 hours a month and I stopped Pioneering. I was struggling with bills. I moved my family to California. I got into the profession I loved and had talent for in the Art World.
My meeting attendance fell off as my interests in life blossomed to broader vistas.
In 1978 I was disfellowshipped. I'm still not entirely certain why. Mostly because I had broken up with my wife and didn't attend meetings any more. Further, I was living an independant life.
We divorced after my disfellowhipping.
My ex-wife took my three kids back to Texas. She was an alcoholic. I sent money and flew back as often as I could to see my kids.
In 1983 I flew my children out to spend the summer with me. I got a call in the middle of the night that their mother had died in a drunken car accident!
I left my career and the state of California and moved my kids back to be around grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins for support emotionally.
I forgot I was persona non grata. I didn't have any friends, no "brothers" and "sisters". I was accursed.
Jennie treated me well and fairly and embraced my children as the grandchildren of her dead daughter, Jo Ann.
But, the former companions of my youth turned their backs on me entirely! I don't know why I was shocked. But, I was. And very very sad.
Thirty years goes by.
Yesterday I attended the JW funeral and met so many of my old friends, brothers and sisters and acquantances again!!
WHAT A SHOCK! What a trip!
It was a Twilight Zone episode on time travel run amok!!
They were all on their best behavior and hugged me and spoke to me and were, for the most part, gracious and kind.
I went into shock emotionally!! My frontal lobes melted down. I don't exaggerate.
I attended, with my kids, (Jennie's grandkids) the get-together afterward and spoke at length to various people.
I just wanted to post this for all of you to see and read, knowing as you do from reading my posts how I feel about Jehovah's Witnesses.
The Funeral was half an hour. Jennie's son, Johnny, my former best friend, works for the Funeral Home. He saw to it that it was a first class funeral with all the trimmings. The body was on display and they did a fabulous job of making his mom look ...I'm at a loss for words..."presentable" as could be.
The talk was given by Johnny's (now) best friend and kept fairly personal and heart-warming. But, it really turned into a recruiting sermon for JW afterlife theology. I was struck by how awkward the reasoning sounded in my ears although I could have given the same talk myself from memory. As he read scriptures and made transitions I could anticipate what would come next. Weird feeling.
You see--I think all of that indoctrination is still inside a compartment in my brain. Yesterday's attendance opened a rusty door and let in sunlight and fresh air for the first time in decades!! the MINDSET was accessible to me for the first time in ages.
There was a sister with a wonderful singing voice who got up and sang two Kingdom Songs. I remembered the words clearly as though I had never stopped singing them! I had been Music Servant in my congregation for awhile. These songs were among those I myself had played on the piano!
The hugs from old friends and their genuine (!?) delight in seeing me again touched a part of my very being that triggered some brain chemicals I hadn't felt in so very long. After all, these are people who think I am of my father the devil and who firmly believe I will die at Armageddon while they will go on into Paradise!!
Yes. It was a massive disconnect.
They are human beings!
These are natural feelings for them to feel as real humans--seeing an old friend for the first time in a long while.
They let open their heart---the part of them that isn't dead from indoctrinations.
This was a real gift to me. It genuinely affected me to the center of my DNA.
And here is the other side of the story.
They all look absolutely horrible! They look years older than they are. They have all let themselves go physically. They are in a state of physical disrepair that only comes to people who have given up on life. Honestly, they are fat, dumpy, haggard and bizarre looking. And I'm even trying to be nice!!
Compared to them I have to say I felt twenty years younger!! Is that awful of me to say? I take no joy in doing so. (Well, not too much:)
I strongly felt and realized I was a very, very fortunate man! Were it not for my disfellowhipping I would be THEM!
I would be a hollowed-out phoney with the light gone out. I would be on the treadmill to paradise mouthing platitudes and parroting the same lame bromides of my "hope".
It was refreshing to see starkly outlined how much of a wonderful life I've been able to lead apart from these slaves in their shackles.
I still love them---each and every one. I wish I could spend more time talking to them. However, I know all too well that it is impossible for the nicey-nice to continue much past the funeral setting when they are on their best behaviors. It would quickly become a nasty turn. Sigh.
I'm happy I attended and was able to slip in to the old shell long enough to enjoy their personality and comraderie again. I'm happy I can see that I made the right choice with my life.
A very strong thought came into my head while I was their. I'll share it with you now.
"By their fruits you shall know them."
None of the kids and grandkids of these "faithful" JW's is not disfellowshipped, disassociated, or faded. Not one!
Who is the fruit of your life if not your children and grandchildren?
This proves to me the sickness of the religion and it is a black and white proof, indeed!
Just thought you might like to know.