Surviving November: My Life After Jonestown Finds New Passion

After attending the dedication of the Jonestown memorial at Evergreen Cemetery in May 2011, my life took on a new meaning. I decided to write the book I’d been attempting to write for years.

But the motivation and inspiration I took from that service turned out not to be enough. I also needed passion and dedication. After writing night after night – sometimes until the early morning – I would go back and read my work, and day after day, I saw it was still missing those qualities I was looking for. The passion I felt in my heart wasn’t coming through on the page.

I began to doubt myself. Just writing about my life in Jonestown and all the great memories I had both about the place and about the people I had been so close to, should have been enough. I’ve been writing most of my life, and this was the most profound experience I’d ever had, so it should have been an easy task. But it wasn’t.

I found myself being my own worst critic. I also found the rest of my life to be the greatest distraction. My focus needed to be on the project, but there were other obstacles that needed to be hurdled before this would be right. I forgot how much life could hand you on a daily basis with work and family. I’d found myself putting aside my project to deal with work issues that needed my immediate attention, and – my sons whom I will never forsake – have begun to experience adult situations that I am often called upon to help them out with because I am “mama.” I needed to find that “happy medium” because this project is something I want to complete so desperately.

One night, as I went over notes in one of my many composition books, I noticed I’d been dating pages and writing my thoughts under the date. As I began to read back what I had written on a daily basis, it hit me that I‘d been writing a journal. That realization has given me the passion and the encouragement along with the dedication I’d needed to keep going.

This project is now a labor of love. Each time I write I remember more and more. I’ve laughed a lot, I’ve cried a lot, but this is the first time since Jonestown, I have allowed my memories to absorb me and have embraced them. This project has also been therapeutic for me. It has turned into a beautiful journey as I remember the lives of so many wonderful people.

I am looking forward to its completion and sharing my journey with others.

(Dawn Gardfrey is a regular contributor to the jonestown report. Her other articles in this edition are Brenda Carol Cobb: My “BFF” and New Branches on the Family Tree. Her previous writings for this site are collected here. She can be reached at