Across the globe, millions of people are shunned by their family members or peers because their opinions and beliefs differ from the group’s views. Others are shunned for aspects beyond their control. There are even those who are told to shun others, without any context of the situation.
Jehovah Witnesses do just that to their former members. Most reading this blog post are aware of it and are being shunned themselves. They have lost family members and dearly beloved friends to the horrific act of shunning. Sometimes, they don’t even know the reason why! But, like blinded sheep, they follow the voice of their shepherds. After all, years of indoctrination has told them to listen and not to question men. As former Witnesses on this blog, we were once part of this cult and are very aware of such questionable acts against one’s human rights.
With time, I have overcome the loss of those friends. Perhaps I’m lucky that my family hasn’t been shunning me, against all odds. But I am an exception, I realize that. The cult wasn’t the only predicament in my life. However, there is someone that I still do miss. We all have that special friend or love interest. In my case, a best friend.
A friend across the ocean
I’ve met Amanda (not her actual name) on the web. I’ve always wanted to migrate away from Portugal, to an English speaking country. With that in mind, my father gave me the contact for this Jehovah Witness nearly a decade ago. I was but two to three years older than her. An American, daughter of two Mexican migrants in the United States. She also had a younger sister.
We quickly formed a bond with one another. Skype calls that would last for hours, encouraging each other to overcome the hardships in life! Sure, by indoctrinating each other even more into the cult but, at the time… it made sense since I shared the same faith. She wanted to learn new languages and become a special pioneer, including my own native language. In her free time, she enjoyed playing the piano, to sing and to dance… and she was skilled at those! Yet, what I loved about her was her ability to be positive yet sensitive and caring. She wasn’t blinded or obnoxious with her positive view of the world, but balanced and intelligent. I felt that I could trust her with anything!
We laughed, we cried, we supported each other… online. An ocean apart.
On summer 2010, I decided to spend my vacation with her and her family. They lived in California, near Los Angeles.
For three weeks, I slept and shared her family’s house. I hardly spent a dollar, except for the plane tickets I bought to get there and later to come back, a meal or two at best, one souvenir and Disneyland tickets that I bought for myself and her (it was the minimum I could do, considering how much money I saved from everything). The people I’ve met, her friends. The places we went together, the memories. The silly things she and I did..
Her family was awesome as well! Her parents treated me like one of their own children. Even at one time, when I started to lose my senses after the first week, when we were out having dinner with a large group of people that were their friends. I was aided back to their car and was treated with special care until I laid in bed to sleep and recover (after all, extremely long travels can affect you). Her younger sister, a delightful and polite child (a teenager currently, I’d imagine).
When I tried to mimic their Spanish accent (She was American, but her parents were Mexican immigrants), so that I could be able to read their language correctly. When they asked me to sing in my own language.. and I did so horribly but they were fascinated anyway because they were hearing a native speaker singing in Portuguese in their own backyard on a summer night.
When the last day came and I cried… tears of both happiness and also of sadness. Because I wouldn’t be able to see them anytime soon. But a promise was formed, they were going to visit Portugal in 2012 during their planed European trip… and they did.
Two years after, I saw them again face to face in my own house. They didn’t pay for much, just the same way I hadn’t paid much when I was there. The amazing car travel we did between Portugal to Barcelona (Spain), for them to catch their cruise across the Mediterranean Sea and visit a few other European Countries. Such an adventure, I had my driver licence less than a year and still I drove, with my father leading the way in his own car… given that we brought two cars for the two families and they couldn’t drive in Europe.
The tan I’ve gained from that trip that lasted me a full year (not even joking). The things we talked again, the laughter and the jokes. I still remember very well when we were close to Madrid, a 100 Km long slow drive to reach it, lasting four to five hours. An elderly Spanish family was looking at us, in their own car next to us. They smiled at us.. but the man sneezed. My friend turned to me, saying that he was probably allergic to youth. For some reason… that made me laugh for 30 minutes to the point that everyone in the car felt awkward about it. I was laughing… because I was happy. I didn’t want it to end.
But it ended, when we reached Barcelona. Both my family and theirs shared hugs, tears… and a promise was left in the air. That next time, my whole family would visit the US, instead of just me.That last promise… it never happened.
She got herself busy, trying to get a job after finishing her education. Then started to dedicate herself more to what used to be the same believes as mine. She started to learn other languages, to become a better publisher.
I came out to her, about my own predicament. She was there, she listened… though her advice wasn’t exactly helpful. But her attention was. Her intentions were good.
She shared more of her own worries, about how some of her close friends and even crushes were getting disfellowshipped, or moving elsewhere to another congregation or country. This… at a time that I knew it was eventually going to happen to me. I knew I was going to make her suffer more… but I comforted her, said the things a Jehovah Witness always says in these situations. She thanked me..
That was the last meaningful talk we had. She got herself too busy and, after that encounter, I stopped answering her messages too. I wanted our bond to fade away slowly with time, before the inevitable. So that we could both… maybe suffer less.
When I was disfellowshipped, by coincidence, she decided to reactivate her Facebook account just a few days afterward. She always said that Facebook was a distraction for her spiritual goals, but when I look back, I believe Facebook reminded her of those friends she had lost in her life. She didn’t know… she didn’t know I was disfellowshipped. She started interacting with my posts on Facebook… and I had to tell her.
Her reaction and the last words I’ve heard from her, over at Facebook:
“I understand… I appreciate you informing me… Unless you decide to change your mind later on, I must now say goodbye. Goodbye.”
It was over, because I told her I was disfellowshipped. She suffered, the same way she suffered when all of those former friends moved on with their lives elsewhere or also got disfellowshipped.
And I too suffered and continue to suffer.
In the meantime, I’ve also learned that her mother got cancer. Of course, I couldn’t do anything about it. Not even send my best wishes to the family. I don’t know what type of cancer. I don’t know.. a lot.
She also used to do YouTube videos, videos that I’ve avoided revisiting. Of herself singing, playing the piano. Covering songs that she loved, songs that touched upon the emotions that she felt. She sings with her heart, playing the songs that resonate with her being.
I miss her.