Mary Pearl Willis:
The Collection of Memories Grows

Something beautiful happened today. My sister Cynthia called to share a memory of auntie.

Growing up, we were not allowed to listen to “secular music.” But my sister, being a typical teenager, had a massive crush on Andy Gibb, a secret which she shared with auntie. Auntie knew my mother’s wishes regarding the music we were exposed to, but she came up with a wonderful idea. She purchased the album and kept it at her house. Each time we visited, she would play it.

The sharing of these stories is as important as the stories themselves. If these talks don’t take place, if no one shares these kinds of precious memories, how are we to know of the love my auntie – and all of our relatives – had for us? How are we to express our own love, unless those around us are willing to receive it? How do we carry our burden of grief without having others to help shoulder the load?

(Lela Howard is the niece of Jonestown victim Mary Pearl Willis. Her complete collection of writings for the jonestown report may be found here. She can be reached at