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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Terri Riggs-Jones, Never a Jehovah's Witness, Never Will Be

Growing up, we were always aware of the Jehovah's Witnesses.  As I grew older, I realized that my mother used to have a lady that came to the house once a week for a bible study.  This was a lady and her husband that my mother had met when she lived in Indiana, long before I was born.  They moved to Ohio around the same time so they continued having their bible study.  We were never forced to sit in on that as children.  This continued throughout my childhood.  

My father was a long haul truck driver and was never at home when they had their bible study.  From what I could tell, he never approved of the study, but never prevented my mother from doing it.  Once a year, my mother did makes us go to the "memorial services."  I never really understood that, but we had to attend.  Later in our life, as my siblings and I grew up, some of our brothers were sucked into this "religion," and one half-sister, as well. 

I remember hanging out with my niece and nephew, riding bikes and such, long before I even had my driver's license.  They hung out with a boy that I had a little crush on.  We were young and would all just hang outside having fun.  He would even let me drive his dirt bike, which was such a blast.  I met his older brother when I was about fifteen years old.  He was quite a bit older then me and could drive.  Come to find out, these were the children of one of the top elders at the Kingdom Hall and my mother knew them well.  This was long before she was baptized or even before she attended the meetings.  

When my crush turned to the older brother, my mother let me go out on a date with him, even though I was only fifteen years old.  In my family there was rule.  You don't date until your sixteen years old.  My mother broke that rule for me, because he was a Jehovah's Witness, and she felt it was safe to let me go out with him.  

Our first date was a drive-in movie.  He picked me up at the house and sat and talked with my mother for a bit and off we went.  When we got to the drive-in and got the truck parked, he raised the seat forward and the whole section behind the seat was full of beer.  Needless to say, he got trashed and I had to drive the truck home, even though I was not old enough to drive.  For a few months, we hung out together and dated a few times.  

One time, he had his brother and his friends in the back of the truck and I was inside the truck.  They all got very drunk.  I called my sister and told her I was taking the truck back to his house and asked if she would pick me up there.  She met me there, probably about 1:00 A.M.  When I pulled the truck full of people into his driveway, his mother was standing outside waiting for them.  She started screaming at me, calling me a f*cking bitch, a whore, a home wrecker, etc.  Now mind you, she was an elder's wife.  She said that her sons were fighting over me all the time and she did not want me around.  So I responded to her insults {in not such a nice way} and left with my sister.
In essence, Terri's words to the boy's mother.
For some reason, I really liked this guy.  I even attended a few meetings, thinking that might help them like me.  I guess I was just trying to get their approval. That would never happen.  Just after my sixteenth birthday, I stopped seeing him.  I would see them all for several years, when I would go to the memorial services with my mother once a year.  The boy's mother would walk by me and would whisper horrible names at me.  My mother never believed me when I would tell her.  These people were Saints in her eyes.  After I married I stopped going to those services.  I didn't believe in it, so why should I go?

My mother didn't get baptized until immediately before my first child was born when I was twenty years old. We had Christmas and all the holiday's until the year I turned age twenty.  I remember us having the most awesome Christmas.  It was always a gathering of family and making cookies and fudge for a week before. It devastated me when I thought that my children would never get to experience the holidays like I had growing up.  I always felt they would miss out on so much.   I believe my brothers got baptized first and then my half-sister and my mother.  Early on, my father was not baptized.  But I think he felt the pressure from my brothers to be baptized.  I felt he did it, just so they would all get along.

My other sister and I were pregnant at the same time.  I remember her having her baby first and her baby was stillborn.  My brother was a witness and came to the hospital and told my sister, "If you don't get baptized as a Jehovah's Witness, you will see your baby burn and there will be nothing you can do about it, but if you get baptized, you will see your baby again."  This is something you just do not say to someone whose child has just passed away.  If she were a weaker person, I feel she would have been sucked right into the Watchtower Society, because of the statement he made at that time.  She was not weak, but it did cause her mental pain for probably the rest of her life.  As my sister and I grew up and married we did not attend those "memorial services" anymore.  I just felt, "Why should I attend, if I don't believe in that religion?'  It upset our mother but I think she understood.  

For the most part, our family became separated due to this "religion."  They avoided us and we avoided them unless there was a family gathering.  I stayed extremely close to my parents.  I am the baby of the family and feel no one will break that bond.

When my second child was born and I was exhausted from being up all night, the Jehovah's Witnesses kept pounding on my door.  At first, I thought it was because they knew me and wanted to see the new baby, but over a few days, I finally figured out what was going on.  I asked my mother not to tell them where I lived anymore.  That never worked.  They would always find out.  I guess they figured that I was one of the few children in our family that wasn't a Jehovah's Witness yet and they thought they were going to fix that.

My mother was not the type to shove things down my throat, but my siblings weren't like that.  They would give it their best shot.  Even to the point of basically threatening horrible things would happen to my children. When my sister finally had another child, after the one that was stillborn, my mother took care of that child when my sister would work.  My mother ended up raising that child, for the most part.  When she would go "out in service" (field ministry) she would take my very young niece with her.  I would beg her not to because we knew the stories of Witnesses being shot at and so forth, but she always took her.  This used to scare me to death.

When I was room mother at my children's school, throughout my children's school years, I would know right away which of their classmates were Jehovah's Witnesses.  It was horrible to see their little faces when their mothers would come in to get them around the holidays, when all the classes were doing holiday projects.  I remember one that stood out.  A little girl had made a paper pumpkin for Halloween and she was so proud of it.  When her mother came in she jerked the paper out of her hand and threw it on the desk and yelled at this tiny little girl, "We don't do things like that, it's ugly."  The poor little girl was in tears.  It broke my heart. These people don't care what they put their children through when they do this.

At Christmas time, we always put our tree up.  My mother would come over and tell me that there were demons in my Christmas Balls that were hanging on the tree.  I would always just laugh.  She stopped coming over, when my tree would be up.  At birthdays, she would always buy something either the week before or the week after.  It was never wrapped like a present, but we all knew what it was for.  I guess it was her way of showing us she never forgot those times.  My mother was my best friend.  I lost a big piece of her the final many years of her life to the Witnesses.  The closeness I missed the most was with my mother. I was no longer included in family trips, etc.  It was just for the family that were baptized Jehovah's Witnesses.  Both of my brothers were baptized.  

Then came the time my mother was ill with cancer.  I found out that my niece, who had also been sucked into this group, was taking my mother to all of her treatments for cancer.  I was furious.  That is my job.  I was her daughter!  I also discovered that certain family members did not want me doing it, because I was not a Jehovah's Witness.  That was short-lived.  I am a very bold person and do not take kindly to being treated like that, so I ended up taking my mother for all of her doctor visits and treatments and was with her until the end.  They tried extremely hard to force me out, but that did not work.  When my mother was in Hospice toward the end of her life, we were all there.  Though they made sure certain ones were in the room when I was.  I guess to supervise what was being said between me and my mother. 

When my mother was in Hospice she made the decision to be cremated instead of being buried, which made no sense to me because she and my father already had burial plots bought and paid for since I was in high school.  She said it was so I didn't spend all my time at a grave site, which only contained her body.  She told me that her body would be there, but her soul would not, and she didn't want me hanging out there, which I would have done, but I feel the Jehovah's Witnesses had a hand in that decision.

During my mother's final hours, a SWARM of Jehovah's Witnesses came in with briefcases.  Many I had never met before. They would spend hours whispering in my mother's ear.  I had no idea what was being said.  The night before she died, I leaned down and kissed her and told her that I loved her.  When she went to kiss my father, she looked him in the face and said, "I will see you again.  I love you."  That is when I knew for a fact that she realized that everything she had been taught or forced to believe by the Jehovah's Witnesses was finally shown to her to be wrong.  She had always told us that the only way she would see us again was if we became Jehovah's Witnesses and went to paradise.  It was something I needed to hear before she passed.  I always felt the witnesses stole so much time away from me and my mother.  It's heartbreaking!

The day after my mother passed away, Jehovah's Witnesses were sending cards and flowers, which I thought was a nice gesture. But over the next few days, they began to arrive at my house with the flowers.  The first few times, they were just talking about how wonderful my mother was, and she really was a wonderful person and my best friend until the day she died.  She always will be.  In the days following her death, I began to realize what they were doing.  Jehovah's Witnesses will find a person at the lowest point in their life, such as my mother's death, and swoop in to make promises of seeing my mother again, so they could seduce me into becoming involved with the Jehovah's Witnesses.  That was not going to happen and they found that out real quick.  I resented them taking the last several years of mother away from me and was NEVER going to be a part of that.  

My mother's memorial service was at the Kingdom Hall.  When I found this out while she was alive, I told her that I did not want to go into the Kingdom Hall.  She told me it would be fine for me not to attend her service, if I was not comfortable and that she understood.  I had already decided not to go, but when my family found out, they blew my phone up telling me what a horrible person I was for not planning on going  and how my father was just sick about me not planning to attend.  So I made the choice, against my better judgement, to attend.  I did not sit with the family.  I was not and never felt a part of that family that was in that religion.  So my family sat in the middle of the Kingdom Hall, along with some others that chose to come just for me and my family, and I was treated like an outcast, which was the reason I did not want to go, in the first place.  It was a horrible experience for me.  The ones that spoke to me were Jehovah's Witnesses and basically, they only wanted to preach to me.  I told my girls to grab the handles on my purse and do not let go, and I headed for the back and out the door.

Right before my mother passed away, she had asked me if I would take care of my father, because I was the only one out of six siblings that he got along with.  I agreed and told her he was my father and that I would see to it he was taken care of.  That started a whole chapter of "crazy" in my life.  

My father was, at that point, a baptized Jehovah's Witness.  He had many health problems that he had to deal with, as well as me dealing with them.  I think this is where the Jehovah's Witnesses felt they might have more control. They found out different.  Now I have never been a Jehovah's Witness and never will be, so I could not be disfellowshipped or shunned.  Jehovah's Witnesses believe that if you are baptized, their kind outnumbers the rest of us, and to them, they feel it gives them a special kind of control.

Just months after my mother had passed away, my father was rushed to the hospital.  I got a call from my sister.  By the time I got to the hospital and walked through the doors, all I could see where men in suits with briefcases out in the waiting room speaking with my sister.  

I went back into the Emergency Room (ER) and found my father.  He was in horrible pain.  The doctors informed me that he was losing some blood.  They had not found the source yet, but I was told that if he lost much more blood, he would need a transfusion.  I knew this would be a problem, so when that time came, I begged my father to take the blood, but he refused.  The doctors discovered that he had a bleeding ulcer and needed emergency surgery.  At that point, due to the doctors diagnosing what was wrong with him, they were able to give him something for pain.  So I was standing there when they came around with a needle on a metal tray.  I heard a loud deep man's voice behind me say, " What is in that?"  I turned around and did not recognize the man who was standing there with a briefcase.  I told him that it was none of his business, the ER was for family members only, that he was not family and to GET THE HELL OUT!

My half-sister, eighteen years older then me and not my father's biological child, although he raised her from the time she was about seven years old, lived two doors away from my father.   She worked full time, but I did not, so I took over the care of my father, when mom passed away, because that is what we are suppose to do.  And that is what my mother wanted.  He had to be run to doctors appointments almost daily, food taken care of, blood sugar checked, blood pressure checked, etc.  I had to be there at least three times a day to make sure everything was done.  In an emergency situation, I couldn't figure out why my sister was always the one there, but for a while, that is how it worked out.

At one point, someone tried to come over and see my dad and I had not arrived yet.  I got a phone call from this person, stating they could hear my father saying something, but the door was locked and they were worried.  I rushed over to find my father lying on the floor, holding the receiver to the phone in his hand.   He had been there for quite a while.  He was trying to call me.  I called for an ambulance and when the medics arrived, they wouldn't take him to the hospital, because he said he did not want to go.  The medics said he needed to go, but unless I had medical power of attorney there was nothing I could do.  Upon speaking to my sister, I ask her if a medical power of attorney existed and she said it did.  I told her I needed my name on that because I was with my father more than anyone else and I needed to be able to get him medical care if needed.  She informed me that my name would never be put on that because I was not a Jehovah's Witness. She said her name was on it as well as my niece's, who tried to take care of my mother throughout her illness because I wasn't a Jehovah's Witness.

I discussed this whole ordeal with my father.  He stated my name needed to be on that.  You can probably figure out what happened next.  I came home, got on my computer and printed out a medical power of attorney.  I went back to my father's house and we went line by line and put everything in there that my father wanted.  Now I am not a believer in their feelings about refusing blood, but my father was, so it was included in his medical power of attorney.  I took him to an attorneys office and had it notorized.  I even put my sister's name on there, below mine.  I, in no way, wanted any control of finances.  I did not want them to be able to come at me and say I did something wrong with his money, so I left my legal involvement as medical power of attorney only.

Needless to say, the shit hit the fan when my half-sister came home later and found the copy I left for her. She was furious, and in true Christian {sarcasm} fashion she called and left me notes all over my father's house stating she would take him out to eat and that was it.  She would not be a part of any of his care. Now, mind you, she was NEVER a part of his care.  It was all about the control.  She told me I would never uphold the blood issue, because I was not a Jehovah's Witness.  As bad as I hated the blood issue, it was what my father, for some reason, believed in.  I would have to respect his wishes.

My father had to have open heart surgery after that, and of course, refused to take blood, so I gave him shots three times a day to build his blood count up, so he could have surgery.  I tried to be respectful, even though I have no clue why, when Jehovah's Witnesses would come and see my father, while he was in the hospital.  My father enjoyed seeing them, so as long as they stayed out of my family business, there would not be a problem.  His surgery went off with out a hitch and without blood, which shocked me!  Thankfully, the outcome was great.

During the four years after my father's surgeries, there were many struggles with the Jehovah's Witnesses.  Then randomly, out of the blue, I found my father had been admitted to a nursing home.  This was an overnight occurrence.  One day he was at home, and the next day, he was in a nursing home.  I should not have put my half-sister's name on that medical power of attorney, after all.

I spent my father's last year of life trying to get him out of there and fighting with Jehovah's Witnesses because of their control over him.  A year after he was admitted into that nursing home, my father passed away.  The elders at the Kingdom Hall were calling me and talking about my father, trying to find snippets of my fathers life to use in their memorial service for him.  I would talk to them about my father, but not about the religion.  I had a feeling where it was going to go anyway.  

At my fathers memorial service, the elder spoke of my father and how, as his youngest daughter, I had taken care of him and that my father used to say that he would have been lost without me.  There were about ten to fifteen minutes devoted to my father, however the next two hours were entirely dedicated to a sermon about the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses.  It was sad.   After the service, the same elder that performed that service came to speak to me.  He told me how much my dad talked about me and loved me, which was something I did not need him to tell me.  Then came the comment I was waiting for, "You know Terri, if you become a Witness you will be able to see your mom and dad again.  If you do not you will never see them!"  BOOM!!! Like I said, they swoop in when you are at your weakest.  I had said goodbye to my mother and my father. How much lower was I?  I looked this man straight in the face and said, "Go to hell."  I told him that both of my best friends were gone and I better never see any of them again.  It was a sealed deal.  I told him that I only put up with their shit, because that is what my father wanted, but it was over.  I told my half-sister and the rest of my family, with the exception of my sister who was not a Jehovah's Witness, to stay away from me, stay away from my family.

My oldest brother was disfellowshipped often.  His version of being a baptized Jehovah's Witness was when it could benefit him.   He was the one, with whom I always had a problem.  He lives in another state and when he would come into town to visit, I would meet him at a friend's house.  One day when I walked in, he was sitting there smoking marijuana with his friends.  Now mind you, we were older.  This was about fifteen years ago and I am a grandmother of two now.  In one second, he would be doing that, but yet he had told my sister those horrible things when her baby died.  The other brother was and still is an elder at one of the Kingdom Halls, so I guess you could say that the Watchtower Society of Jehovah's Witnesses has been a big part of my life for many years.

Since the passing of both of my parents and my one sister, who was not a Jehovah's Witness, I have cut all ties to the family.  It was something I felt I needed to do for my peace of mind and happiness.  Do I miss them?  Sure I do, but I miss the way they used to be before Jehovah's Witnesses came into our life, not the way they are now.  I have seen my half-sister in the grocery store.  She has spoken and I have walked right by.  I don't need that in my life.  I cannot be happy, where they are involved.  In my opinion, when Jehovah's Witnesses are involved, my life is full of drama.  I cannot have that.  So it was a choice I had to make and one I DO NOT regret.