From Baby Steps to Long Strides

by Linda Mertle

I can’t believe it has been 30 years. It has not been an easy time but it has been full of Love, Friendships, Family and many important learning experiences.

When I think back to when I first left the Temple, I remember trying to deal with the separation from my PT family, leaving Cynthia behind, and wondering how I was ever going to be able to fit back into this world again. In the process of trying to make things work, I realized I really didn’t want to do this life anymore. It was just too hard. I found the easy way out and got strung out on speed within the first couple of months. It only took about a year for me to hit bottom. I recall the date – it was November 7, 1977 – when I almost died. It took me about six months to get back on my feet and try life again.

Cynthia Marie Davis
Photo Courtesy of California Historical Society, MSP 3800

A year later, on November 18, 1978 my world came to a screeching halt again. I still remember the days waiting for news of Cynthia’s return or being found alive. I was overwhelmed with anguish when I found out she was never going to return to me again. For years afterwards, I kept hoping that it was a mistake and one day she would find me again, but reality eventually set in and I now realize that she is not coming home. A huge part of me died alongside everyone else in Jonestown, and unfortunately many of my past partners have had to bear the brunt of it: my inability to open myself completely and live and love this life to its fullest; my anger towards God for allowing the tragedies of Jonestown to happen, for the loss of so many wonderful and caring good people. That was the first time in my life I prayed to this God and what a letdown. I never wanted to speak to God again. Now I leave things up to the law of the universe. Some things you just have zero control of, and that seems to be where most of the lessons in this life come from.

My life took a positive turn on March 3, 1987, when I was blessed with a wonderful son who is 21 years old now. He has turned out to be a beautifully spirited, kind and caring soul. I think he is the first person I have given my unconditional love to since Cynthia, and it has paid off in the long run for both of us.

I know I have been truly blessed in this life, and I can’t think of anything I would want to change in it, except the outcome in Jonestown. I have had many lessons to learn and many hurdles to climb in the process of life but it has all worked out. For every hard time I am faced with, I grow stronger and find appropriate ways of dealing with them.

I am finally learning to open my heart again. They were only baby steps in the past, but my stride is long and strong now, and I am no longer afraid to try love and life again. Most of my past partners understand why I was the way I was and the ones that mattered are still a big part of my life today. It has been a learning experience for them as well.

I continue to walk through this life with the knowledge I gained in Peoples Temple. Thinking back on it, I am thankful because it has formed me to be the person that I am. I am comfortable with myself and my life. My sexuality has never been an issue, and I think that is due to my life in the Temple. My formative years were spent with a shared goal that we could make this world a better place, and I feel we did to some degree. I am not sure about giving the credit to Jim. Yes, he brought us all together, but we are the ones who make a difference in other people’s lives. Sometimes it is as simple as sharing our life experience and our beliefs that there can be a world without racism, hatred and war. Our acts of kindness have a domino effect: what we give to someone, they in turn give to another and another.

I have made it through this life with the supportive help and love from my family, friends and some therapy too. This has been an interesting life, and I have enjoyed sharing it with so many good people. All I can do is walk softly on this earth and keep Laughing, Loving and Caring.

This is a very good life.

(Linda Mertle can be reached at lmmertle@att.net.)

Originally posted on July 25th, 2013.

Last modified on February 11th, 2014.
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