Ron Frye, a proactive Christian whose profile appears on this website, served for some years as BRCI president and editor of the newsletter. In the Spring 1996 issue of the BRCI Quarterly, in his regular "President's Message," he wrote the following experience of attending his Jehovah's Witness mother's funeral in January 1996. Ron, a former Circuit Overseer, had not seen his mother since 1981 when he and his wife, Mavis, were disfellowshipped for "apostasy," even though they had lived in the same town for many years. This presents a typical situation for one who leaves the Watchtower religion, as dictated by their shunning practice toward those who leave the religion, especially for coming to disagree with any of its doctrine(s).
When my family knew I planned to come they said that they would have someone meet me and take me to a motel. I was told that they had a family meeting and decided there would be no socializing either before or after the service. I flew into Tucson about noon Monday, January 22, not knowing who would meet me. As it turned out it was my oldest grandson, Andrew, whom I hadn't seen since he was eleven-years-old, and my granddaughter's husband, Thomas, whom I had never met. I barely recognized Andrew but I could see traces of the boy on the man's face. He was polite and asked how his grandmother was but there was no display of affection. They drove me to a local motel where they had obtained a reservation for me. After I paid for the room Andrew said his parents would drop by later.
In the afternoon I got a call from the lobby saying my daughter and her husband were coming up to my room. As I waited I prayed again for a measure of God's spirit. On one of those occasions mentioned above I had impulsively hugged Jamie. I later learned that gesture of affection made her very uncomfortable. I decided I would not make that mistake again. When they knocked on the door I let them in and stepped back but Jamie did come forward and gave me a hug and I hugged her back. It only took a moment but it helped to melt away years of separation. Jamie had brought a small box of some things my mother had saved to see if there was anything I might want. She also brought some fruit and snacks for me. I appreciated the kindly gesture. We had a pleasant visit and after about 20 or 30 minutes they left. I learned that they were both pioneering and that Andrew had been at the Watchtower Farm for the past six years. They said their son-in-law, Thomas, would pick me up and take me to the Kingdom Hall that evening.
It was a curious experience to walk into a Kingdom Hall after so many years. It was quite full of people and I looked around to see if I could recognize my other grandchildren. Matthew, the youngest, was only three-years-old when I last saw him. He is now eighteen. I was only able to say hello to him but not much more. The nicest moment came when I saw my granddaughter, Francisca. She came over and gave me a loving embrace. We held on to each other for a long moment. She had become a very attractive and gracious woman. She led me to her little girl, Mesha, and introduced me to her as Papa, a term she had always used for me as a child. She was just entering her teen years the last time I saw her.
The first row of seats had been set aside for the family of my mother and I was seated at one end next to my daughter. My mother's sister, LuCreatia, sat at the other end and had made it clear that she didn't want to speak to me. She was the only one who drew this hard line. I felt sad for her because she and my mother had been very close. The elder gave a kindly review of my mother's life as a Witness. He pointed out that in all her 55 years as a Witness she never failed to report time! She had hoped to survive Armageddon, he said, but that was not to be. He told his audience that when she is resurrected they would have to tell her what Armageddon was like. I had to smile to myself at this. His eulogy was laced with references to my mother's devotion to Jehovah and his organization, citing examples of this. But made it a point to say he was not eulogizing her. This, too, reminded me of the Witness mindset. After singing a closing song the little service was ended. My mother had directed that she be cremated immediately so there was no reviewal. There was a small table set up with her picture on it together with a guest book. On the way out of the Kingdom Hall I paused to look at the picture and sign the book.
My daughter and her husband, Frank, drove me back to my motel. They got out of the car and we said our goodbyes. I hugged Jamie a final time and asked my son-in-law if he would be offended if I hugged him. He said he wouldn't be offended so I hugged him as well. Then, they were gone. True to their word, there had been no socializing either before or after the memorial service. Their collective consciences had allowed them to briefly show me a measure of human kindness but that door was only opened briefly and was now securely closed once more.
The following morning Thomas drove me to the airport. He and I spoke easily and I found myself liking him and feeling good about him being the husband of Francisca. I had been in Tucson less than twenty-four hours and only parts of several of those hours involved contacts with my family. I hardly had time to digest the experience. It was just a breath of time and yet filled with healing for me. Throughout the whole experience I felt a spiritual security and comfort that enabled me to focus on the needs of others. I know that dealing with me was not easy for my family under the circumstances. There are those among them who have affection for me but do not feel free to express that fully. They really do believe I have turned against Jehovah God. I understand that. They are not the enemy. The enemy are those 'strongholds of arguments and pretensions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God,' (2 Cor. 10:4-6) I am grateful for having been delivered from a religious community that has created a gospel that goes beyond the true gospel of Jesus Christ and is destructive in many ways. But I feel compassion for those who remain caught in its web. I pray that Christ will have mercy towards them. I know my mother loved God with all her heart and was faithful to her perception of what His will for her was. I must let the matter rest there.
I feel a sense of relief and comfort knowing my mother's journey has come to a close. Her future judgment rests with One supremely qualified to make that judgment on her. A text that has always been a comfort to me in this respect is Isaiah 11:3,4 "He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth." I find comfort in knowing our Lord's insight transcends human limitations. At this time it is sufficient for me to focus on my life in Christ. Do I reflect his spirit? Am I growing into a fuller measure of what it means to be a Christian? I want to live out what remains of my life waging the war that Christ would have me engaged in and keeping in mind: "...we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."--2 Cor. 10:3-5 NIV. That warfare is fought on two fronts: One internal and one external.
--Ron Frye (1996)
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