Last week I attended my father's funeral in Hobart. I was the first time I have been in a kingdom hall in several years, and many years since i had attended the hall of my childhood, but felt like it was just yesterday.
The funeral talk was quite a departure from normal, so worth writing about. Dad was a circuit overseer up till his cancer diagnosis, and even when he was sick he did a trip to Bethel to conduct the audit. His prominence in the organisation made a difference, as the talk was different from any I have heard before. The coffin was in the hall, and two brothers from Bethel flew down specifically to give the talk. The first covered information from the standard outline, and then the new Branch co-ordinator gave a second brief talk, passing on the love and condolences of the Bethel family.
The funeral talk outline says "Instead of eulogising the deceased, use the material in this outline to give a fine witness concerning the truth." I was expecting to be irritated by the talk, with its typical marketing pitch about how great the JW hope is, and then a couple of lines at the end about Dad. Instead, Dad's life was mentioned throughout the entire outline. It still all led back to the Watchtower though, by saying how intelligent and competent Dad was, and that with careful research he came to know the Watchtower was God's organisation. Still, I was very impressed with it overall.
The shunning was the other unusual aspect. A kind brother actually picked me up from the airport in order to help my mother out. Several JW's spoke to me quite normally. When I entered the hall, a brother gave me a large hug, and several others came up to speak to me. After that however, I noticed that many refused to approach me, and specifically avoided eye contact. One sister came up to speak to my cousin standing right next to me, but completely avoided me.
The worst were those that didn't shun me, but made a point of pushing the Watchtower line on me. One sister said "under the circumstances, i am here to give my condolences, under the circumstances." Under the circumstances, I felt like telling her where to go, but held my tongue. Another said now Dad was gone it was time to get my act together. Yet another asked if I had come back to the truth yet. He is a particular hypocrite, so I told him I would never be coming back. Then I received a card from a well intentioned brother saying had sad he was because I had suffered the greatest loss, and I am the one that will never see my father again, unless I make some changes. I told one sister that I was sad dad died so young and it didn't feel natural, I set myself up for the response "well Paul, that is because death isn't natural, is it!"
There was a wake after the funeral, but I was not allowed to attend. A few exJW friends took me for a drink instead, which was a definite relief.
About 250 attended the funeral and there were many cards sent. A lot of people were calling my mother constantly to express their grief. It is one of the benefits of being actively involved with a high control religion. My mother expected that I would be moved by it. I told her that it was nice, similar to what I notice with many Church groups. She constantly used the term "my loving brothers" which irritated me no end. On the last day there she wanted some sort of reassurance that the whole scene had moved me to change my mind about things. I felt somewhat insulted, as if my reasons for leaving were somehow emotionally charged, and so some emotional experience might bring me back. I made it clear that I would never contemplate being a JW again. She was upset and let me know that I will not be able to be an active part of her life then.
Somehow I survived, but I am certainly glad to be back home and away from all the craziness.
The Watchtower funeral outline is at http://jehovah.net.au/books/Watchtower-Funeral-Discourse.pdf
The thread about my father is at http://www.jehovahs-witness.net/jw/experiences/215516/1/My-Father-passed-away-during-the-night