Coolhand Luke - Letter to Family
The construct of this letter has taken so long to formulate in my mind. My feelings keep crowding out my thoughts, bleeding into my dreams. I dream about all of you. But they aren't dreams, they are nightmares. I call them such because I cannot call you and talk about them. These options are closed to me. This is the format I have taken, not because it is preferred, but because it is my only option to share with you my minds loop and my hearts pain.
It must seem on the surface that my choice to leave the organization came because of A*****. I would be lying if I said that she did not play a part in my departure. It was of aid to me to know that I would have the support of one person in my life. She was not the catalyst though. She was the opportunity, and I sought her out. I loved my life. I loved giving talks. I loved preaching. I loved digging to find that one nugget of "truth" in the most unlikely of places. I loved finding that thing that when shared uplifted and changed the perception, just slightly of those who heard it. I loved speaking in front of the congregation. To take them on a trip through an illustration, through the scriptures was magnificent. If for just that brief moment their minds were expanded in a way that made them motivated for the topic being discussed, I was so pleased. I felt like a privileged conduit for Jehovah's Holy Spirit. That was joy at its height. With this said, is it possible that a mere worldly girl could tempt me away? I doubt it. I would like to think that I have a reputation for being someone who thinks long and is reasonable. I would like to think this because all of you in some form or another have come to me for advice, both spiritual and personal. Sometimes that advice did not come from my mouth; it came from advice given to you by mom when she came to me. I don't mean this in a manner that attempts to elevate my importance. I'm just trying for a moment to get you to look past my "state" and see me as the person that you have trusted your entire lives. I'm still me. I'm still Dominick.
I spent many years in question of myself. Am I doing enough? Guilt racked me to the pain. I never felt worth or adequate. When I studied for all of my meetings, pioneered, commented, there was always more to do. There were times that I thought heaven was closed to me because the things I prayed for seemed to never occur. I have always felt that Jehovah's Witnesses are God's chosen people. I have always felt that we had his blessing and others did not. So my questions, my doubts made me feel ashamed of my lack of faith. They made me feel that I was not worthy to be amongst the chosen for my shameful doubts. So I buried them like bodies. The problem is that the elements exposed their unspoiled corpses to me as fresh as the day that I covered them with warm earth.
Right before I left I had this conversation with M****** about how I couldn't "do it" anymore. I felt like a liar going out in field service. I didn't want the role of teacher. It seems in my recollection that I became more of a sharer. We seem to place so much of the focus of our public ministry on the placing of literature. That strikes me as our agenda when in the field so often that I think we miss the humanity of it. It became about counting time instead of sharing faith or providing comfort. I remember leaving everything in the car and just taking my bible to the doors. I'd ask the householder to get their bible and start the conversation sharing a scripture. I remember wanting to hear the difference between what they read and what I had almost memorized. I invited an opinion of what we read and let them lead the conversation instead of trying to steer it to a point that I wanted to make. So many times, I left doors of people who were so expectant of being told of how wrong they were for their beliefs and how right I was for my own. But by just sharing with them, I felt like we connected. I was up built as much as they were. I didn't have a single placement for months, but I was excited in a way that I hadn't been for a long time. I taught nothing, just shared, just encouraged. But then I felt guilty as my magazines piled up, or I didn't even know what the offer for the month was. I felt guilty about missing meetings, even though that anxiety in the pit of my stomach would disappear when I missed. Being there made me feel always as if there was something missing. I hated how during natural disasters, my first question was "Are the brothers okay?" I never thought twice about the hundreds/thousands of affected. It breaks my heart to consider my stance. Guilt became such a part of my life. There were few motivating factors for me as powerful as this emotion. I came to a point where I didn't want to be motivated to serve my God based on guilt. I wanted it to be based on love. But the guilt began to impel me to act, not the love. I felt like I was operating a shell of a person from a distance. That eats away at life and insures that blame for negative feelings will be squarely assigned where they don't belong. It leads to a confused existence. That eats away at the core of you. The following will sound psychotic I'm sure, but this is my attempt at honesty. With my father and others that I loved who hadn't made a stance for the truth, I contemplated taking their lives. I figured that my life didn't matter, but if they died on this side of Armageddon, they would have no chance. I had planned out the murders of many, many people. Sounds crazy, huh?
Judging at the door was our inside joke. "Well, shake the dust off of your feet." "Well, that's a really nice house. Seeing as there are only goats inside, I think I'll take that one after Armageddon." My stomach ached. It ached to the point of disease. Since I moved, I have had zero bouts with my colitis. I have missed no days of work, no meaningful events, nothing important to me. Perhaps that is just age, or an exercise regimen, I don't know. What I do know is that I am at peace. I pray everyday for guidance. I read my bible. I meditate on what I find. I research. I compare secular sources. This started as me trying to shore up what I believed. I thought that it was my lack of faith. Then I started to find things that didn't make sense. I won't elaborate on these; that is not the intent of this letter. I'm just trying to say that I haven't abandoned my search for truth. I haven't stopped being like the Boreans.
Sometimes sitting in my chair at meeting or at home when I was supposed to be at meeting, I'd pray to God for a compromise, for a way to please Him and still remain with this organization. I asked myself: Why do I want to stay? I want to keep contact with my family. I want to be around the people I have built my life around because they are safe. I know this road. I know exactly where it goes. I asked myself: Do I feel I'll be spiritually benefited by staying "in"? No, because I felt like a liar. I felt l was hiding what I was, which was a doubter. All things done in the dark will be manifest in the light. I hate liars. I wouldn't be one of them. That would be a betrayal of everything that Gran taught us. How Jesus-like would I be, pretending, going through the motions? The hardest thing I have ever done in life is leave. But I wasn't growing. I was atrophied. I was minus human. Being "out here" I feel like such a child on a mountain of a learning curve, but I am growing up. I think you'd be proud of me. I hope that in some sense, you are.
Mom, you once told me that our lives do not belong to us; they belong to those around us that love us. For so long I believed that, after all, you said it. For me that has to be a half truth. My life is mine. It is God's gift to me. I choose to share it with you. In that I would hope that you would want me to be the very best man that I can be. To do any less would undermine the efforts that all of you have made in raising me. I am striving for that. I am striving for God's smile, my own and then yours if you'd give it to me.
Gran - I have invested too much time and too much love sitting at your feet for our relationship to be over. You hide it so well, but I believe you to be of the most loving women that I know. I doubt that you have put more energy into one person than you have put into me. I do not think that you have ever been more of the same mind with one person than you have been with me, because you taught me how to think. I will make no attempt to know your reasoning as to disown me. No choice has ever hurt me more. Perhaps you'd say the same about my choice. But I think I understand where you are coming from. I'd like to think that you are trying to reach out to me the only way that you feel that you can. I will not die in this system without hugging you again, that I will promise you. You are my mother as much as you are S*****'s and C****'s. I am your son. No choices or distance will change that. I miss your house. I miss cornbread from scratch. I miss the cradle of your neck. That cradle was hewn out for me. I miss walks with you. I have almost every letter that you wrote me as a child. They are of my cherished things. You told me once of the circuit overseer whose grandson chose to leave the nest of the organization. The overseers comment to the young man was, "If you aren't going to be a witness, be the best whatever you choose to be, and I'll keep on loving you." I am trying to be the best human I can be Gran. Just keep on loving me.
M** - What can I say to you? I love you so much mom. You are, not were, but are my best friend. We grew up together. We've fought more campaigns on more continents than I would care to recall. We survived divorce, poverty, death, marriage, moving, anger, pain, happiness, England, births, rebelliousness, two absent fathers, an absent husband, cruel siblings, tears, smiles, deep belly laughter, loneliness, fear, girlfriends, would-be suitors and Fontana together. At reading this, I'd wrap my tears up in a skin bottle for you to express the depth of my feelings in your regard. My face is salty in regards to you mother; the salt is sweet.
A******* - My first second mother. Sister, I have never known a more selfless person than you. I miss you but am afraid to call because of the inevitable lecture. I don't think that any woman save Gran and Mom love has ever loved me more than you do. We have had so many stupid fights about things that I cannot even remember. Lique, for being so alike, I wish that I had your large heart and an ounce of your selflessness. I would hope that the older I get, the more like you in these ways I will become. Thank you for always looking after me in your own way.
A***** - I don't know where to begin. I have spent more of my young life trying to be you than trying to be myself. You were the ultimate big brother. It was an insurmountable task trying to be you. Thank you for helping me to just be me. I wish I knew you better. I am your biggest fan. For most of our adult relationship, I felt like I always acted first to reestablish contact. Perhaps that is you giving me my space and allowing me to come to you in due time. I don't know. My door is always open to you. I hope that your continued studies in the scriptures are lending to the peace that it seems you are always stalking.
Luca Brassi - I call you that because you are a mountain of a man. For as much as you seemed to want to be me as a little boy, I wanted to be you as a grown man. If ever I had a child, I'd want him to be just like you. You make me well up inside like no other Luca. You are my hope. You are my pride. My door is open wide to you. There will always be a second bed in my house for you. I am such an admirer of yours. You make me smile wide.
J***** - The memories that I cherish most of you are having walked you to school at Cypress. I like the feeling of your hand in mine. You are such a beautiful little woman. You have such style, such grace. I miss you. I miss coaxing a hug out of you. They were always so genuine
M******* - My little namesake, you are the funniest little girl that I know. You seem to always do something to place those around you in a truly jovial (that means happy) mood. It seems so effortless though, as if you'd do those things with other present or not. You are growing to be a gorgeous little thing.
S**** - The little porcelain doll. I feel like I know you the least, but it seems that every time I see you, you beat all of the other kids to hug me first. I like that. I cherish it. You are so loved little one
I hope that you know the depth of my appreciation for your having raised me. It took all of you to make me proud of the man that I am becoming. I hope that one day you will allow me to support you in whatever way you need. I remain free from bitter feelings regarding any of you. Hurt exists, but what change occurs without some pain. I'm too grateful for waking in the morning, finding myself and drawing closer to God to be bitter. There's an underlying satisfaction that I am a good person and enough, something I haven't felt for a really long time. I hope this letter finds all of you in joyful expectation of tomorrow. Perhaps we'll see each other then. Christian love, Family love, Friendly love, Human love Your son, Dominick