After 33 years, a threshold was crossed this year at the six-month point between memorials, as the onus for representing them to the outside world, in memorial services at least, shifted from Jynona Norwood to the “survivor community,” which consists of: (1) Jonestown survivors, (2) Peoples Temple survivors, and (3) relatives and friends of the dead and/or of survivors. (I’m in group 2, never having been to Jonestown.) The shift was necessary, timely and natural.
It was both an opportunity and a burden. Jynona’s services had been accessible, regular and dependable. They were poignant and as meaningful and significant as she could make them. However, the opportunity of honoring our family as only we knew them is exciting, and is an opportunity for us to rehabilitate the memory of those now universally known, by and large, only as “the ones who drank the Kool-Aid.”
Hopefully, the benefit of our yearly memorial services will ripple out beyond our own lives and relationships. I was fortunate to attend the Memorial Dedication this year with my houseguest, who was in PT as a child, and escaped before 1978. As happened with my guests of last November 18, 2010, it was transformative and energizing to see them meet others for the first time and get a sense of what we had in common. I found myself rediscovering me in the experience of seeing us through their eyes. Their feedback, in both cases, indicated that the effect of these gatherings on them was even more dramatic, resulting in resolution, acceptance and an understanding they had not had before. There is a synergy here that breathes metamorphosis, and may be the way forward to healing and reintegration. It revives a belief that anything is possible, when you realize that there are people like these who care so deeply, and only want to express their connection and identification with and their love and respect for, them.
I look forward to remembering all of them, in all of their richness and vitality, and joining any others who want to do the same. Rehabilitation may take patience and more time than I have left, but maybe we can start the process.
(Kathy Barbour [Tropp] joined Peoples Temple in 1970 with her companion, Richard Tropp, and was living in the San Francisco Temple on November 18, 1978. Her other article in this edition is In Search of the Grander Scale. Her earlier writings on this site can be found here.)