I’ve only recently began reconnecting with former Peoples Temple members, AKA “the family” or “the folks”. The thought of traveling out of my comfort zone to San Diego to celebrate Independence Day with folks I hadn’t seen or spoken to for over thirty years was somewhat unsettling.
Actually I was afraid. I didn’t know what or whom to expect or what would be expected of me. Would someone recommend deprogramming or starting a new, better Peoples Temple for those of us who remained? Thoughts of being subjected to questioning regarding my affiliation, my loyalty, my beliefs, and my departure in 1976 clouded my mind. I didn’t know how I would react to those who had escaped Jonestown and those who remained faithful to the very end. Would it be appropriate to apologize? Would it be expected of me to apologize for their pain, their loss of loved ones, the nightmares and their journey from hell to “normalcy”? Would I have to explain my swift departure? Does survivor’s guilt ever go away?
Maybe we wouldn’t talk about “doomsday” at all. Perhaps we’d just reminisce about the dream of peace, equality and freedom we all shared; we’d talk about the communal dinners on Sunday afternoons, swimming in the church pool, greeting new visitors, traveling to the Los Angeles Temple. The list would be endless. After all, there would be a lot of good things we could reminisce and talk about.
My anxieties evaporated in the instant I saw them again. I hugged and kissed childhood friends, friends I hadn’t seen in over thirty years. We laughed, cried, talked to the wee hours of the morning, teased one another about menopause, failed marriages, graying hair, becoming shopaholics and our aversion to soy beans!! There were no ill feelings, no animosity, no power struggles. Just the folks, the family, reminiscing about our lives in Peoples Temple, remembering those who are no longer with us and how we continue to share the the same dream.
I survived the 4th of July festivities. I have no regrets and plan to attend again. For those of you who are reluctant or fearful of attending, please put your fears and reservations aside. To reconnect is good for the soul and you to will survive.
I continue to ask why. But through it all I give glory to God for sparing my life.
(Pinkie Jones can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)