It’s been 10 years since my father died. Alone and lonely; in a room he was renting from strangers. We were estranged at the time for many years so it hurt really bad, knowing that the chances of making amends was now forever terminated.
Christmas has never been a happy time for me. Not since I was 3 years old. That’s when I lost my extended family for many years. My parents joined a religious cult that expected and demanded members to cut off all ties to anyone who wasn’t a member, including biological family.
I was driving in my car a couple of weeks before Christmas when the song called “Please Come Home For Christmas” by The Eagles came on the radio. The sad lonely desperate lyrics made me think of my father, which made me start to cry unexpectedly. See, the last time I saw my father and actually spoke to him was over the Christmas holidays a few years ago. I was with my father’s family at my Uncle Rick’s house and the last person I would have ever expected to see there was my father. Yes, even though I was at his brother’s house with most of his siblings. Because of his involvement in the JW cult he had cut me off many years ago. He obediently shunned me as part of the requirements of being a member in good standing because not only had I run away from the JW as soon as I could, I was a known apostate. I spoke out against the tyrannical rules and regulations dictated by an organization that destroys families and robs children of their innocence. I was having a great time with everyone when I noticed that one of my aunt’s had seemingly disappeared. I looked around the house for her and was told that she had gone outside for a cigarette. So naturally, I went to the front door and when I opened it I got the shock of my life. There stood my father! He turned and smiled at me so I said hello. He said hello back, but then… nothing. The moment felt so surreal and awkward. I didn’t have a coat on and he didn’t make any gesture to encourage me to come to him so I just smiled at him and shut the door. I’m sure the whole exchange took less than a minute but at the time it felt like I was caught in a time warp. I don’t remember who else was standing on the porch or if anyone else said anything but I will never forget that lost chance of reuniting with the first man I had ever loved.
Every year, as November comes to a close a darkness starts to wash over me. It comes without warning or notice. It’s a feeling of dread that’s brought on by childhood memories of sad feelings of isolation and loneliness, knowing that everyone else was engaged in celebrations and being merry while we were forbidden to engage in such activities. Every year I hope things will be different and I really hope that this year will be different. I try to stay positive and focus on the plans I have for the loving family currently in my life that I am so grateful for. But every year, without fail…the darkness comes and casts a gloomy shadow over all of my good intentions and positive plans. I try to conceal these negative feelings from everyone I love but I feel like I’m walking a tightrope of feelings that could cause me to topple at any second.
This year however has been extremely difficult to hold back the floodgates of tears and feelings of misery. My 92 year old paternal grandmother died on November 21, 2017. She was living with one of my aunts 2 hours away so I was fortunate enough to be able to go there and spend her last days with her and other family members. The family members that I was denied during my childhood. We took turns sitting by her side; never leaving her alone. We held her hands and rubbed her arms, whispering words of love into her ear. Just like we did with my Aunt Nancy 4 years earlier. I am the oldest and first grandchild on my father’s side of the family, so as I held her hand and my grandmother slipped into unconsciousness it felt like a small piece of me was dying with her. After many years of separation we each took tentative steps to repairing and rebuilding our fractured relationship. I made the decision many years ago to put myself out there and try to get to know my grandmother better before I jumped to any conclusions or judgements about her role in the dissolution of our families. As scary as it was to let my guard down and allow her into my heart; I am extremely glad that I did. When you gather information and put all the missing pieces together, things begin to make more sense and the healing begins.
My grandmother had a very dignified funeral service and the turnout was huge. My father was there too. Well, his ashes were anyway. When he died he didn’t have any kind of service so we were denied the closure that is necessary for the grieving process. It had been almost 10 years since I viewed his cold, bloated body on a gurney in a body bag in a back room of another funeral home. It was the first time my husband had ever met my father. He stood by my side, holding me up as I talked to my father and stroked his cold, sad face. So now here we were and his time had come to be given the dignity he was denied so many years ago. One day I will write about the whole thing surrounding my father’s last days and death. But right now I need to stay focused on the recent events. My father had spent the last few years first at my grandmother’s house and then later with one of my uncles when she moved out to the West Coast. Sitting on a table beside my grandmother’s elegant light blue casket were my father’s ashes and a picture of him just months before he died. The plan was for me to place his ashes in my grandmother’s casket before the service began, along with his picture. After a second service at the cemetery we were all invited to a luncheon at the building next to the funeral home. I was exhausted when it was all over with but I wouldn’t trade the time I spent with my aunts and uncles during that time for all the money in the world.
Three weeks later my favourite uncle was admitted to the hospital for the final time. He had been battling health problems for years and had had to go on dialysis the last year of his life due to kidney failure. After finding out that he was also suffering from kidney and liver cancer he decided to stop all treatments. He was tired of feeling sick. He was tired of fighting a losing battle. He was tired of sleeping all the time. So, he made the very brave decision to stop all treatments and let nature take it’s course. A week later he was dead. Three days after Christmas. I was his POA and Executrix so I got the call at 0426 that he had died and I needed to get his stuff out of the room and make arrangements to have his body picked up. I’ll write more about that whole experience another time. Right now, I just want to grieve the losses I’ve dealt with this Christmas season and hope that by Spring I won’t still feel like crying everyday.
I’m already not looking forward to next Christmas. Too many bad memories, too much pain and heartache. Every year I say this year will be different and I make plans to provide a beautiful Christmas for my husband, my children and grandchildren. But every year it’s foreshadowed by a lifetime of haunting images and disturbing memories. I know that everyone has suffered from grief and heartache sometime in their lifetime. I don’t think I’ve cornered the market on misery but I definitely think I’ve had more than my fair share of tragedy. Like Elvis Presley sang, “I’ll have a Blue Christmas Without You”.
I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. I can’t forget because I keep getting email reminders from WordPress telling me exactly how many days it’s been since I last wrote on my blog. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, it’s just that I’ve been really busy doing lots of other things. Like, I finally finished sanding and painting the beat up antique dresser I bought for $50. and painted a beautiful shade of black. It’s one of the things I really enjoy doing. Taking old things from refrugaled to remarkable. It had solid bones when I bought it and the scratches and scars didn’t scare me one bit. There wasn’t one nail in this fine piece of furniture, it was all dovetailed together. I admire such workmanship! And let’s face it, the new stuff they sell nowadays is expensive and designed to be disposable. I’ve been slowly replacing each shabby dresser I’ve lived with for over 25 years because I finally have some time to focus on some projects and passions I’ve wanted to do but couldn’t because I had to work to pay the bills and take care of my babies. It turned out even better than I imagined. I’ll post a picture of it at a later date. It rained most of the summer so I only made it to the beach twice this year. I had ear surgery to repair a blown eardrum from a lifetime of repeated infections that should have been dealt with when I was a child but my mother’s doctor was a quack who didn’t believe in surgery. I’m still looking out for my uncle who is going through dialysis so I spent quite a few days at the hospital with him. We went to Calgary, Alberta to visit my son for 2 weeks and it was wonderful to hold him in my arms again. It doesn’t matter how old he gets, he will always be my baby boy. My horrible neighbour who lives to the left of me put her house up for sale and it sold in less than 2 weeks so that is great news. I hope she’s gone before Christmas. My anxiety was getting so bad I started having chest pains wondering what nutty thing she was going to do next. I’ll write another blog about her after she leaves. I spent lots of time with my grand babies before they went back to school because they are the best medicine in the world for me. I went with my husband for a week to the Ottawa Valley while he worked and got to see my sister/cousin which always lifts my spirits. But mostly, I’ve been homesick for California. Even though I wasn’t born or raised there.
The first time I went to California was over 20 years ago. I took my kids out of school for 3 weeks and went with my mother and her husband. The first place we drove to was Malibu Beach. From the moment I stood on that beach with my toes in the sand and water, I felt like I had finally found my true home. I felt like I belonged there. I felt like this is where I should have been born, raised and shaped. A place that’s warm all year round (compared to where I live), and a place where individuality and creativity is celebrated not berated. A place where I could breathe in the ocean air and just be me. Thousands of miles away from my brutal upbringing in a religious doomsday cult. Days away from the narrow-minded small town I was born and broken in.
I’ve also been really sad that I’ve had negativity thrown my way recently. It’s one of the reasons I never talked about my childhood to anyone for most of my life. I learned at a very young age how to suppress my true feelings and participate in things that I did not believe in or enjoy. I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t have a voice when I was a child. I sat through years of gruesome brainwashing while trying to hang onto my sanity. When I finally escaped at the age of 15 I foolishly thought I could just push it all down and pretend that not of that craziness ever happened. I created a new identity for myself and armoured myself with an image of toughness and bravado. I also had 2 children at a young age that kept me too busy to even think about what my parents had involved us in; never mind trying to process the inevitable side effects that come from having your will broken and your innocence stolen. I was The Great Pretender, fooling everyone around me for many years. To the outsider it looked like I had my shit together. I always worked to take care of my babies, we lived in a nice clean safe apartment, and I had good health. But everything changed when my father overdosed in 2008 before we were able to make amends from a 25 year estrangement. He closed the door when he told me he could no longer be a part of my life if I refused to come back to the cult. Those words stabbed me like a knife to the heart.
So, his death blew the doors of the steel vault I had carefully constructed around my heart and feelings. I was weak and defenceless at the time because I was dealing with an infection from major surgery, I was being sexually harassed by my boss, and then I got that phone call I’d been waiting for all those years. I had a complete mental and physical breakdown that took me years to recover from. Although I don’t think I’ll ever be the same again. I have no tolerance for bullshit now and can spot crazy a mile away. I went to therapy and realized that all my demons (pun intended) could be directly traced back to all the abuse and lies spoon-fed to me on a daily basis for years to that destructive cult. It was the reason I was diagnosed with PTSD. It is the cause of insomnia, anxiety and depression. It is the source of my feelings of worthlessness and emptiness. So, I decided to start speaking out. They say you are only as sick as your secrets and I was tired of keeping silent about the widespread child abuse I witnessed inside the walls of that cult.
I have been shown much love, support and encouragement by friends, some family, and even strangers who read my stories. But I was never naive enough to believe that I wouldn’t get negative feedback from some cowardly keyboard warriors. But what I didn’t count on was hearing about it from people I am unfortunately related to. They say things like, why don’t you just get over it? Or, that’s in the past, you have a good life now so just be grateful and put it behind you. There’s also those that say they don’t understand why I have to speak badly about my former religion and let them live in peace. So I’m going to answer those questions again. First, this was never MY religion. I didn’t choose it and I never believed any of the garbage they tried to force me to accept. As young as 6 I couldn’t understand how these seemingly intelligent adults couldn’t see through the scam or how they could believe such outrageous claims by an organization that treated their members like they were worthless. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to speak my mind and ask questions to things that were just so far-fetched they bordered on the brink of insanity. But I quickly learned to fall in line and at least perfect my pretence of going along with the program. Corporal punishment and public shaming were just 2 of the ways children were made to be compliant. I’ve never recovered from having to force myself to publicly ostracize myself from everyone outside the cult as dictated by the leaders of this evil organization. I was forced to stifle my own personality and be labelled as anti-social. I was the outsider, the freak, for all of my school years. I could never make friends because I was told that these other children were worldly and evil and served the devil. I just wanted to blend in and be myself and feel normal. But, I wasn’t allowed to, it was strictly forbidden. It’s not like I could leave home and take care of myself. This was the family I was born into and I was expected to never do anything that would bring shame upon the family.
So when I finally decided to speak out and reveal the horrors I survived I made a vow to myself that I would NEVER keep their ugly secrets ever again. I would never protect the guilty who have much blood on their hands. And I don’t care who likes it or what they have to say about me. They can try to mock and ridicule me all they want but it won’t shut me down. This isn’t about me. And it’s certainly not about “getting over” it. It’s about all the innocent children who are still being indoctrinated with messages that are false and will only serve to destroy their self-confidence and self-worth. It’s about all those children who will have their mind contaminated with graphic images that will cause them to have lifelong nightmares. It’s about the children who will be self-destructive when they are cut off and shunned by everyone they know because they disagree with the fallacies and doctrines they’ve been presented with. If an organization claims to be the only ones who know the truth about everything and can guarantee your eternal existence then it should be able to stand up to any and all questions. If an organization is blemish-free and has nothing to hide they should have no qualms or hesitation to report child or domestic abuse to the PROPER authorities, not just have it handled internally by people who are not qualified to seek just for the victims of such serious crimes. And lastly, I have a constitutional right to speak about anything I want. Just like you do. I’m always perplexed by people who try to put a gag on someone’s mouth when they don’t like what they are saying. Why? Is it because they are embarrassed that they have family that laps that cult shit up like it’s honey? Is it because they didn’t experience life in a cult in the same way as the devout members and their children did? Is it because they had a relatively normal childhood because their father didn’t believe in that hocus-pocus so they weren’t denied any of the celebrations most average people were doing in the community? I think it’s because they rarely even went to those hellish monotonous meetings that made you wish your were dead. I know, because I was forced to go to every meeting, every convention and every event the cult had going on. The cult took up my whole life, 7 days a week. It dominated our lives. Even at school I couldn’t get away from it. I had to set myself apart from everyone like some freak at a circus show for a cause I didn’t believe in one iota. But they didn’t! They weren’t there and that’s why it didn’t have the same effect on them as it’s had on millions of other people worldwide. It’s more than a coincidence that millions of people from every part of the world tells the same stories about abuse, neglect, brainwashing and it’s lifelong side-effects. I’ve had to block people on Facebook because I don’t need the negativity and I won’t engage with someone who wants to take away my freedom of speech. To those who try to silence me, know this: the harder you try to shut me up to protect a corrupt organization that destroys families and robs people of their happiness in the here and now, the more I thrive on your ignorance and intend to spread the message of what really goes on inside that secret society. And the truth shall set me free.
So for weeks now I’ve been homesick for a place that was never really my hometown but reminds me that there is still so much good going on in places with people that don’t live in a world of black and white thinking. The best part of it all is that there are more people exposing the lies and corruption every single day. In this day of modern technology it’s a lot harder to hide secrets and scandals. It doesn’t matter now where somewhere lives or how far away we are from others worldwide. We are instantly connected by the internet and it has proven to be a useful tool to expose and destroy evildoers. Those people who thought they could get away from their egregious crimes against children in that pedophilia paradise are now having to answer for their actions. They can no longer just ignore the outcry of so many victims and get away with so much injustice. I think the best example of that was all of the lies and information that came out during the Royal Australian Commission last year. It was aired live and that heinous cult was exposed for was it truly is. An organization that does not protect it’s vulnerable members and had never reported a single incident of child abuse to the police in their entire history. How very pompous of them to believe that people would believe that nobody had ever been violated in any way, EVER! In fact, they took great delight in condemning and judging the Catholic religion for years when the scandals started rearing it’s ugly head in that organization. Those who live in glass houses should’t throw rocks.
It’s been raining the last few days and the weather has cooled down. The leaves are changing colours and falling to the ground. The sun rarely makes a bright appearance lately. But I know that somewhere in California someone is still spending days on the beach, soaking up some sunshine and fresh salty air. I woke up about a week ago with the song California Dreamin’ from The Mamas and The Papas in my head and it seems to be on a continual loop. That’s ok though, because I know California awaits my return and all I have to do is shut my eyes and picture the waves and palm trees and my anxiety is almost instantly abated.
If I could live anywhere in the world it would be California. And maybe one day I will. I’ve succeeded in almost everything I’ve attempted since I left that dominating cult, so maybe if I put it out there in the universe I will find a way to spend more time there. Maybe through my writing, maybe through my new career in Criminal Psychology & Behaviour. Until then, music and pictures can transport me there in my mind.