(Rikke Wettendorff is a regular contributor to the jonestown report. Her other article in this edition is Remembering Peter Elsass: The last “outsider” to visit Jonestown. Her collection of articles on this site may be found here. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Glenda came into my life through chance. I was editing texts for the jonestown report, and Glenda’s first contributions to the site just happened to be assigned to me. I could not have been happier. It was obvious from the outset that Glenda had something on her mind and was intent on sharing it.
I think Glenda wrote three articles for the report that year. The first thing I noticed about them was that she never put herself in the spotlight. Rather she wanted to shine a light on the people of Peoples Temple, including her friends and – most notably – her sister, Darlene Ramey, so many of whom died on 18 November. She wanted the world to know about the camaraderie, the fun, and the daily life as seen from a teenager’s perspective, how they managed to find little pockets of fun and freedom in a fairly regulated existence inside the Temple, and how they danced and talked about boys like teenagers do.
This was how Glenda wanted them to be remembered. She had a wonderful eye for details, and the people she wrote about really came alive in her writings. But she also wrote movingly about the grief of losing her sister and how the silence between them was painful, yet also somehow a message to her throughout her life:
Her unspoken words are the most painful part of her death. Whoever said that time heals all wounds must not have known to tell time. (…) I can hear her in the silence. I hear her regrets, her sorrows, and her pain. I hear her saying, ‘it’s time to let go, time to stop saying I’m sorry. Time to stop mourning and learn to dance again. Time to hug somebody and laugh again.’
Her Silence Carries a Message – remembering my sister Darlene Ramey
Although I never had the pleasure of meeting Glenda outside my inbox or social media, I am happy to have been able to call her my friend. I can say without a shadow of doubt that I have never met anyone quite like Glenda before. She was a woman of faith, always able to make sense of even the most meaningless occurrences through the Scriptures, which was a fascinating thing to witness. It seemed Glenda’s faith was an endless source of comfort and hope, something those of us who are not so inclined probably cannot help but feel a little envious of.
Glenda was also funny and ready to laugh at everything, not least herself. And she made the funniest posts on Facebook, the best starting with something like “Excuse me, but I am in one of my moods,” followed by a rant of some sort. Glenda was also a family woman, loved by her daughters, her wider family and her community. And boy, did she love them back. With all of her might. And she never forgot her sister, Darlene, and she made sure that we never will either.
Glenda, you made the sun shine a little brighter. May you rest in peace.
(Glenda Randolph Bates died in March 2022 of pancreatic cancer. A second remembrance, by Fielding M. McGehee III may be found here. A full list of Glenda’s contributions to this site may be found here.