Funerals, Jehovah’s Witnesses & Foriegn College Students

Normally at this time of year in Northern Michigan, the ground is covered with snow, the county road crews are busy keeping the roads clear and people are enjoying the various winter activities available around the area.

But not this year. We’ve had maybe six inches of snow over the past two months (January and December) and just recently, we’ve experienced an extraordinary amount of rain. All of this strange wacky weather is not making anyone in the tourism industry happy. Most ski resorts have reported a very large drop in attendance and a lot of the tourists who haul their snowmobiles up from downstate find themselves riding on muddy trails and in 30 and 40-degree weather. Not much fun at all.

But, that’s not what I want to talk about today. Today, I want to touch upon a subject that has touched my life very recently: funerals.

About two or three days after I lost my job last November, I received a call from my mother telling me that my grandmother (father’s side) had died. The funeral was scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving and she wanted to know if my twin brother Damien and I could make it.

The wake came and went. I saw and spoke with relatives I hadn’t seen in ten years or so, shook hands and politely paid my last respects. I did not cry.

A couple of days ago, my mom called again and said that my grandfather (father’s side) had died. Again, I felt no absolutely no grief and my mom even mentioned that no one from my immediately family was planning on going to the wake or the funeral. What’s the problem here? What’s going on?

Considering that I’ve probably met my father’s parent’s only 3 or 4 times in my entire life, I can easily justify the lack of emotional attachment. They simply were not a part of my life. We were never close. The primary reason for this is that my grandparents were devout Jehovah’s Witnesses and disowned any family member that married out-of-faith, which included my father. Why?

Since my father passed away in 1985 (while we were living in N. Yorkshire, England), I have not spoken with or heard from my grandparents. My brother, Damien, wrote them a letter his senior year of high school requesting pictures and stories of our dad, to find out more about the man who left our lives much much too early. A few weeks later, a package arrived with a few pictures and a very large amount of JW propaganda, as well as a letter welcoming him to the Kingdom Hall. Why is this?

I relate this story mostly to just get it off my chest. But, I also want to share my life and experiences with others. I’ve discovered over the past few years that people like to hear stories about the places I’ve lived and the people I’ve met. Whenever I tell people that I grew up around the world and all across the United States, pretty much all other conversation stops and I have the floor. Why is this?

On a similar note, having grown up in multiple cultures and societies, I usually tend to see things from a different perspective than most Americans. And this makes me different. Being “different” can sometimes be bad in our American society. No matter how many laws are passed protecting the “different” people, our society will continue to persecute and discriminate against anything or anybody that does not go along with the norm. Why is this?

In college, I had many more friends who were from foreign countries than I did American friends. At night, I would go down to my dorm’s study area and it was always the foreign students who were hitting the books. The American college students were usually out getting drunk or laid. Often, I would sit and help the foreign students compose that difficult sentence or try to give them analogies for that hard-to-understand English phrase. I would proof their papers and help them with their English. I was the only student who would be doing this. Why is this?

Posted by Cameron Barrett at January 7, 1998 11:59 PM