I had a brother. His name was Jon.
Jon was a sweet, super sensitive guy. Also, a very tortured soul. He wanted so much to be accepted, to be certain that god was with him. Actually, he really did believe that Jehovah was god, and that Jehovah didn't hate gay people.
You see, Jon was gay. And he was baptized as a JW at 13 years old. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of what he would be like had he been able to survive his tortured confusion. Jon killed himself in 1998. He would have been 34 this year.
When we were kids, we used to talk about how our families would visit each other, etc. Jon looked up to me, and I know that he loved me very much. That brings me a lot of comfort. Because of JW dogma regarding disfellowshipping and shunning, which I bought into, I wasn't able to help Jon at all when he needed me the most.
Jon was disfellowshipped 2 months after I got married to my now ex wife. For the next 4 years, he was in and out of my parents house, eventually moved out and lived with people who sometimes exploited him, othertimes tried to help him. Jon in all this time never stopped believing in Jehovah, the only god he knew. He would go to gay bars and look for gay Catholics to try and witness to. He went to the meetings at KH's on occasion and would tell the elders that he knew Jehovah annointed him with holy spirit, and that they were wrong to reject him for his homosexuality.
I know that he was disturbed, that he needed help. He called me three times after I moved away from Florida, one time, to tell me that my parents were divorced... 6 months previous. (!!) The last 2 were his efforts to try and feel me out, to see where I was. Jon knew I was a dyed in the wool JW. The last time, he asked if he could visit, and I had to turn him down. He said he understood, and that he loved me anyway.
Did you know that was the first time ever in my adult JW existence that I felt I was doing something wrong by obeying the JW dogma and edict? Jon was the first person to shake my tree a bit, to get me to feel. And all I did was say no to my brother in his time of need. But in Jon's time of need, somehow, he knew that he needed to know that he loved me. He knew that in the future, I would need that. It was Jon's love that slowly started the opening of my eyes, and started the erosion of the JW hold on me.
3 months later, Jon left us. He left me. But he also left me a great gift.
And yet, while I miss him, I know that Jon wouldn't want me to feel bad or regret. Jon wanted me to be happy. As I look back, he knew even then I was trapped in a way of thinking that deep down, wasn't mine.
Jon wasn't about rejecting others for who they were or weren't, for shunning people based on their narrow definition of god, he was about love and acceptance. In the end, he got neither love or acceptance. In that, for his life to have meaning means that I must try and apply the lesson Jon was trying to teach me. (and may still be trying to teach me.)
We must love and accept each other. We must forgive whenever we can. We must not waste time getting caught up in things that don't really matter.
Do you have family that you love? Maybe you can't get in touch with them right now. Respect where they are, even as Jon tried to do with me. Jon somehow knew that his love for me would somehow shake me. It did. I thank him for that.
Time is short. My mom is now sick. My dad and I aren't close, though we love each other. Yet everyday, this culture tells us that work, making a living, having a savings account is the best way to show you love your family and friends.
I say, there is no substitute for the time you can give others. And even if the JW cult has your loved ones in a vise that you can't break right now, please know that an expression of love from you is more powerful then any effort to dissuade them from the cult. Because deep down, your family loves you too. Deep down, your love is the best weapon against this cult. Send them an email. Put in the subject line "I Love You". Don't talk about JW's. Just tell them how you feel. Tell them you love them, and that you hope that one day, you can be a family again. JW's have no antidote for that. At some point, even if its years down the road, it will bear fruit.
Most of all, my life experience has taught me that tomorrow isn't guaranteed. Make the most of today. Love, but not in a religious sense. You know what love is. Give into it, give it and accept it.
If you do that, I promise you my brother, and others like him, will not have lived in vain. It will in the end make us all more powerful then this cult. It might even help us to be at peace, at long last.
Love you all! :)