Jehovah's Witness Tragedy - a series of installments.

by Julia Orwell 66 Replies latest social entertainment

  • Julia Orwell
    Julia Orwell

    I'm working on a short story/novella about a JW family. It's called The Opal Ring. I will be posting it in installments, and would like some feedback on it. It's fictional, but all the events and characters are inspired by real life people, scenarios, events and JW teachings.

    Here goes:

    The Opal Ring Part One

    Barbara was never meant to die in this system of things. She was never meant to die at all, and certainly not from cancer. Now she was gone, and her husband Alfred was getting on in years too, something that was also never supposed to happen.

    Barbara and Alfred had prayed every day to Jehovah that he just might keep her alive to see the beginning of Armageddon. Just the beginning, so she could die happy, knowing her life’s work had come to fruition. Then Alfred would not have long to wait for her to be resurrected to the bloom of life in the beautiful paradise Earth.

    But Armageddon never came. Barbara grew sicker, and while the doctors said she could have another two years, she refused the treatment. Her blood was so weakened by the chemotherapy that the doctors wanted to give her a transfusion, their Hippocratic Oath demanding of them nothing but the best for this patient they’d slaved over for years. She refused to take any, and so with downcast eyes they sent her home to die.

    Alfred’s heart now had a great big empty place where Barbara once lived as part of him. They had never been particularly close; they were married at 18 after a six month romance and after several years had realised they had very little in common other than their religion. Their religion which forbade divorce except for when one spouse cheated, which was something neither Barbara or Alfred would consider due to their good standing in the congregation and fear of reprisal. So they lived almost as brother and sister for four decades, developing a familial fondness for each other.

    They had one son, Adam. A career Jehovah’s Witness, he was pioneering straight of school at fifteen and was an elder at 29. Now 35, he had even worked as a substitute Circuit Overseer.

    Adam had never meant to be born. In the scramble of those heady years of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s to witness to everyone, when the organisation was experiencing huge increases, no-one was really meant to have children. With Armageddon imminent, the brothers looked down on those who wanted to start a family. It seemed to be constantly preached at the Kingdom Hall and assemblies that having children was pointless and selfish. Barbara and Alfred had always loved children, but had taken the admonition to heart not to have any of their own. There’d be plenty of time for that after Armageddon. But when Adam had unexpectedly arrived and they had to quit pioneering for a few years, Barbara suddenly realised what joy she was missing. She pined for another child, but Alfred, frazzled after a long day’s work and endless Kingdom Hall meetings, put his foot down as the head of the household and told her it wasn’t going to happen. Armageddon was too close. The world was becoming too bad. The other pioneers also had stopped associating with them as much since Adam had come along.

    One day Alfred sat Barbara down and showed her from the Bible where it says wives have to be obedient and in submission to their husbands. He reproached her for being selfish, when Jehovah’s name and its vindication was their mission in life. Barbara relented, and stopped begging for another child. She moped around for a while, going through the motions of being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    Alfred felt he had every right as her husbandly head to put his foot down, but he wasn’t made of stone. It was a struggle, but he saved a tiny amount of money from his weekly pay cheque for a gift. A fabulous gift. After over a year of secretly saving, he presented her with an opal ring on their anniversary. One could gaze into the huge stone and feel like one was already in Paradise, so deep and brilliant was the colour.

    The ring became Barbara’s favourite possession. The eternity represented in that ancient stone, forged by Jehovah himself in the very creation of the universe, became her reminder of the eternity she would spend in the paradise Earth after Armageddon. The years wore on and Armageddon didn’t arrive, but Barbara buried herself in Watchtower study and pioneering, funnelling all her frustration into being the best Jehovah’s Witness she could be. She studied with many children in the congregation, first being looked up to as a spiritual mother, then a spiritual grandmother. She’d counted 17 children she’d led to baptism, and had another on the way when she died. This was her motherhood.

    And the ring, the ring: as she felt her mortality slip away with the girlhood promise of Paradise receding farther away, she could not decide which of her spiritual daughters she would give it to. Many of them had moved away anyhow, and there were two she refused to speak to because they had left the organisation. Then as she was praying in her bed at home, Alfred brought the latest Watchtowers over from the meeting he’d just been to. When she was strong enough, she voraciously read the life experiences, articles exhorting young ones to pioneer, and the study articles. Then there towards the back of the magazine, was an article on making donations to the Watchtower, especially when one dies. A dying Jehovah’s Witness could will property, insurance benefits, shares and – jewellery! to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

    Barbara knew to whom the ring would go now. Her last gift to Jehovah would be her precious ring, which could be sold to bring Kingdom Halls and literature to the poor brothers in Africa. That ring could pay for the plumbing in Kingdom Hall in Cameroon, Rwanda, or even Malawi, where Jehovah’s people had been so cruelly persecuted!

    She told Alfred of her dying wish, and quietly slipped away that night. And the ring went to the Bethel in Sydney.

    * * *

    Part Two is on its way.

  • Julia Orwell
    Julia Orwell

    What do you think? I need to edit it a bit, but is it interesting?

  • LoisLane looking for Superman
    LoisLane looking for Superman

    Julia, You write very well.

    It is a sad story.


  • Julia Orwell
    Julia Orwell

    Thanks Lois. I'm working on it right now. It's part of my healing I think. A writing professor at a local university said I should write an autobiography of my cult life, but the wounds are too raw. It's easier to write about other people.

  • LoisLane looking for Superman
    LoisLane looking for Superman

    I am curious to read what you write next.

    You have a good flow.

    I wanted her to have more children. I wanted her husband to be kinder. I wanted them to get divorced if they found they were not compatable .

    I wanted them to have grandchildren, so she could give her ring to say the oldest grand daughter or maybe give her ring to her daughter in law, but there was no mention of her only son marrying.

    I do not know how many JW's have tragic lives.

    I can only guess.


  • Julia Orwell
    Julia Orwell

    So many do. The next part is nearly ready.

  • LoisLane looking for Superman
    LoisLane looking for Superman

    Julia, Do you mean your next installment is almost ready to read here on JWN sometime tonight? Just asking. It is 11 PM here on the West Coast.


  • talesin

    Yes, that was a good read. Like Lois, I have questions ........

    Nice work! It must be very releasing to channel your experiences into this fiction, it has lots of energy. Keep following your bliss! Keep writing.

    Looking forwrd to the next installment. xx


  • Julia Orwell
    Julia Orwell

    Part two:

    With Barbara gone, Alfred lived alone in their little rented unit in a dingy suburb. Adam was off in another town, filling in for their late circuit overseer. The guy had just dropped dead one day from a heart attack, and Alfred couldn’t help but think of so many other circuit overseers he’d known who had never made it to 70. But the new system would be here before Adam reached that age, Alfred reminded himself dutifully, even though he was starting to doubt it. But he focused on his hope for Adam. Adam would see the new system alive, even if his mother and father arrived in the sleeping carriage.

    Between circuit work and Adam’s local congregation duties, he came and visited his father. Alfred was still able-bodied, but lately had been unable to dig himself out of the hole in his heart left by Barbara’s death. He dutifully went to every meeting at the Kingdom Hall but somehow it seemed different now, like although he was surrounded by a hundred smiles, they seemed painted on and he felt remote. He was part of the crowd but somehow peering at it from a parallel dimension, as if he could see them but they couldn’t see him. He’d taken himself off the pioneer list because he just could not face random strangers every day of the week. After 30 years of it, three of them nursing Barbara through her cancer, he was just dog tired. He heard from the platform and Watchtower every week about how now was the time for Jehovah’s people to be doing even more for the kingdom, but his mind slid around what he was hearing like ice on a car bonnet, and he just wanted to sleep.

    “Dad, think of all the encouragement you give the brothers and sisters!” Adam too missed his mother, but the more he felt it the more he ploughed himself into his religious career. He felt his father should do the same and keep pioneering.

    “Dad, the time now is so reduced. This system can’t go on any longer. It just can’t! People are streaming to the mountain of Jehovah, and think of all the lost sheep you’ve brought into the Truth. There are so many more out there dad, and the time left is reduced! I miss Mum too, but we have to keep going if we want to see her again.”

    Alfred’s tiny lounge room was littered with relics of his life. Wedding photos. Old Bibles. A photo of him with the Sydney Branch Overseer. Watchtower bound volumes from 1967. 1972. 1975.

    Ninteen Seventy-Five. The lettering on the dusty-coloured bound volume leapt out at him. Adam was continuing on about a how much the Faithful and Discreet Slave (aka the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses) cared so much about the brothers, which was why they continually exhorted everyone to keep as busy as they could in the preaching work and avoid not just hobbies and recreation, but in putting too much emphasis on their own feelings.

    Nineteen Seventy-Five. Dim memories of that year stirred in Alfred’s mind. Adam was very young so he didn’t remember the excitement of that time. The waiting, the brothers selling their houses, the huge push for pioneers – and the disappointment. Nothing happened. The world continued, and just as in the days of Noah men were marrying and women being given in marriage, but unlike Noah, nothing happened. Alfred himself had been caught up, but prided himself on his faith when he stayed loyal to Jehovah’s Organisation when others he knew didn’t, and even one of the Governing Body turned apostate.

    It was the end of a world, but not in the way that was preached. It was rather the catalyst for new, stricter policies regarding anyone who ever said the Organisation just may have made a mistake. Alfred had to shun his brother who left over the affair, and while he had always been close to him, he just couldn’t run the risk of his brother’s gangrenous apostasy rubbing off on him. His brother chose to leave Jehovah’s organisation, Alfred reasoned, so he was worse than dead.

    Alfred refocussed on the present. Adam was reading aloud from the book of Job, something about being an integrity keeper.


    He stopped reading.

    “I’ve been in the Truth a long time. My parents were in the Truth. Mum heard Brother Rutherford give public talks. Her mother, your great great grandmother, came into the Truth after hearing “Millions now Living Will Never Die.”

    “Millions now Living MAY Never Die,” Adam corrected.

    “No, I remember it. “Millions now Living WILL Never Die.”"

    Adam frowned, but let his father continue.

    “Adam, your mother was never meant to die…”

    Adam cut his father off, “I know, Dad, it just shows that we were never meant to be living in this system, that we were designed to live forever, that the end is getting so close!”

    “That’s not what I meant,” said Alfred with a mournful gaze. “What I mean is, we were told you wouldn’t reach primary school. My mother was told I wouldn’t reach primary school. And she too…yet Mum and Nana are long gone.” He was about to confess something to his son, something he felt guilty for even thinking. Adam was flicking through the Bible, running his finger down the columns as though searching.


    “Hang on, Dad, I’m looking up something to encourage you.”

    “No son, put that down. Remember I told you that what makes a good elder is not how much you know but how much you care? Just listen.”

    Adam acquiesced. He had always been a good boy, taught to respect his parents and Jehovah. While other kids had been giving their parents grief by running off to parties and getting drunk and smoking but smiling like perfect Witnesses at the Kingdom Hall next morning, Adam had always been involved in spiritually upbuilding activities. He hung out with pioneers and ministerial servants and learned to respect the hierarchy.


  • talesin

    Lois, I wish it was 11 p.m. here!

    Sleep, where are you? :P

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