I wrote back in December of 2009 about a young JW girl, S, who was very dear to me. At that point, we had reconnected briefly, and randomly, for the first time after my leaving the religion in 2005. She was 11 at that time and although I covertly slipped her my phone number, I didn't expect to hear from her for many years. I figured that once she turned 18, she'd have the right to stop attending the Jehovah's Witness meetings and then she'd come find me. Well, sometimes life takes unexpected turns and three months ago I received a phone message from Miss S, who I will now call by her real name, Sophie:
"Hi, it's me Sophie, K's daughter. I don't know if you remember me but I was thinking about you the other day and I miss you. And I'd like to talk to you. Can you call me?"
I don't think I can adequately describe how I felt when I heard that message, but I'll try. First, I did a little dance around my living room. And then I started crying, overcome with joy. A lot of really shitty stuff has happened across my life, not the least of which was losing contact with this child when I left the JWs and experienced shunning from my whole community. And here was her voice, on my phone, asking me to call her. So, I did.
I was nervous when I dialed her number. I had no idea what her JW status was. Was she and her family still in? Did her parents know she was contacting me? I wouldn't let any of that keep me from contacting her but I was also aware of the penalties and grief that she could suffer from having contact with me, the "apostate".
When she picked up the phone, I could hardly contain my excitement. I had flashes of all of the beautiful moments we'd shared when she was a young girl. I was happy to hear in her voice that bubbly, talkative and loving girl I once knew.
As soon as we started talking, all the details spilled out. She was almost 14. She was a month away from her Grade 8 graduation. Her family hadn't been to JW meetings in years. She had always hated the religion and was happy to never have to sit through another long, boring JW sermon again.
There was much to discuss so we made arrangements to meet for dinner. I picked her up at her home and we ended up spending the whole evening together, catching up on seven years of missed moments. She filled me in on every bit of juicy gossip from my old JW congregation, including what happened in the aftermath of my leaving. She recounted one incident that took place shortly after I'd left. She was out with a bunch of JW adults in the proselytizing work and had seen me from afar on the street. She had wanted to go and say hello, but was told it was forbidden for her to talk to me. She said that had really bothered her. She had thought, 'She's my friend. Why can't I talk to her?'
She told me how much she hated being raised JW, how hypocritical she found everyone to be. She hated the cliques and the backbiting, the dogmatism and the lack of real love for others. When she was in Grade 3, she was so depressed about being stuck in the religion that she tried to kill herself. This made me very sad and also very angry. A lot of people in this religion have much to answer for. I wish there was a way to hold them accountable. The only solace I take from all of this is that Sophie is out now and got out young enough to build the life she wants. And, of course, that I'm now a part of her life again and get to be part of that building and unfolding.
Sophie and I now spend time together regularly. She comes and spends whole weekends with me where we go shopping, discuss life over dinner and stay up late watching movies. Normal stuff. Human stuff.
Sometimes when I see her, I can't believe it's really her. Her with me. And we're both out of the religion and never going back. It's kind of surreal actually. As much grief as I experienced in losing contact with her, my brain had come to a certain level of acceptance that maybe I'd never be able to have her in my life again. I didn't like it, but I'd stopped crying about it. One thing that has shifted profoundly for me over the past year is that I no longer fight with reality. Reality always wins.
Sophie invited me to her Grade 8 Graduation last month. I was so touched to be there. The last time I'd attended one of her school events was when she was in Kindergarten and I volunteered to help the day her class went to the zoo. She was 4 then. She's 14 now. A decade has changed so much, yet changed so little. Sophie is still the bright-eyed, inquisitive, feeling child I knew then. And also the strong, independent, intelligent young woman I am lucky to know now.
Here is a photo of us the night we reconnected:
And one taken the night of her Grade 8 Graduation:
Sophie is the reason I've started blogging again. She's my inspiration. She has many questions about life and love and everything in between and I hope I can explore some of the ideas we discuss, here on my blog. When we reconnected, I showed her the entry I'd written about her over 2 years ago. She said, "You have to write another entry! You have to tell them I'm back!"
As I write this, Sophie is sleeping on my couch. She will be delighted when she wakes to see that I've written the update to our story. I'm grateful there's an update to write. And even more grateful that our story has really only just begun.