Hearts of Stone

2012-02 My son sent me this photo which looks like shunning. Hearts of StoneBy any chance, does this desolate photo — with backs to me — look like I'm being shunned?

My fleshly brother, who is also a Jehovah’s Witness elder, sent me a photo of my son and my granddaughter after twelve years of nothing. Watching this photo of my son walking away — but not one photo of their faces — my heart broke. I thought to myself that this religion turns loving hearts into hearts of stone. I wept for my children caught in the Babylon-ish religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Oh *sigh* I suppose this is what can happen when Mercury is in retrograde — it’s the only time I can despair so deeply — and come up with poetry titled “Hearts of Stone”:

Hearts of Stone

When I left religionHeart of Stone
I sacrificed
my beloved children
On the altar
of religion.

I left and they stayed.
Now I’m shunned.
Abandoned by their love.
Yet, I am free
From religion.

But religion
Turned our hearts to stone.

I am free — but for religion.
I miss my kids.
While happy memories of my childrenHeart of Stone
In my albums
remain close to my heart.

I live a new life
Free of religion
But religion
turns hearts to stone.
My heart aches.

Religion teaches that it is okay
To shred family bonds
In the name of god.
But our hearts have turned to stone.

Yet stones are living beingsHeart of Stone
with beating hearts.
What does it take for a heart
To beat?

Pick up a stone
And feel its heartbeat.
It has one.
You know.

A stone is filled with love
And a lesson.
On how to have a living heart
Of love.

Stones warm themselves
In the sun.
Their hearts beat strong.Heart of Stone
They are sure of their place
In the world
Oh to be a stone
In the hearts
of my children.

If my children
have hearts of stone.
There is hope.

The stones I know
Have beating hearts
Filled with love.

And the stones I know speak volumes.

                       ~ ©Esther

Here’s the Backstory

Now I know why I moved so far away from my relatives. Why must “family” be so dysfunctional?

My patriarchal brother is a religious control freak. Ironically, he is the youngest child in our family of seven children. He takes his formal religious duties seriously: after all, he is trying to “save” our hopelessly divided family.

During the spring of 2010, he, along with his wife and their new baby met me at a sushi restaurant for lunch. He lives three provinces away, and was in town visiting his in-laws. I supposed I was an afterthought, since I am being actively shunned by the religious members of the family, including my two children. The last time my children spoke to me was the year 2000, when I left the religion. I had no idea where either of my children lived. I even suspected he was there to see if I was “softening” toward the family religion, since being officially disfellowshipped in the year 2000.

A Year Later A Stone Cold Heart

After the unexpected restaurant visit, another year went by before I worked up the nerve to ask my patriarchal brother if he ever heard from my children. I fully expected him to say, “Your children do not wish me to divulge their whereabouts.” Instead, he informed me that my son and daughter-in-law live in the same town as them. No mention of my daughter.

I was flabbergasted! My son lived in the same town, yet he never mentioned it during the sushi lunch…?

In the same phone conversation, I was astonished to learn that in July 2010, I became a grand-mother. In other words, during the sushi lunch, my daughter-in-law was about six months pregnant! Information about my children was somehow not of interest to me?

Why did it take so long for the news to get to me?

Carrots, Sticks, and Stones

My first sense was this information was a type of “carrot on a stick” tactic being used on me. It seems my brother had the idea that telling me about the birth of a grand-daughter might draw me back into the religious fold in order to have a relationship with the grandchild, as well as restore harmony with my children. My patriarchal brother wants credit for “saving” our hopelessly divided family — have us all happily united under the banner of the family religion which I disavowed years ago. After all, he takes the credit for “saving” my mom from her disfellowshipped state, luring her back to the blessed fold.

Sometime after the phone call, my brother emailed me the photograph above, of himself and my grand-daughter. My daughter was already walking, which means she was over a year old!

Soon afterward he sent some photographs of my grand-daughter when she was younger. Must have been an afterthought. I was shocked. No photos of son or daughter-in-law — only the grand-daughter. I was so torn it took me a week to respond. On the one hand I wanted to scream at him for his manipulative behavior. Here was my innocent grand-daughter being used as a pawn. On the other hand, I did not want to disrupt the fragile line of communication that had opened up after eleven years.

I sent a short email back, “I thank you from my heart for the precious gem photos. I shall cherish them. With unconditional love.”

A Grand-Daughter for Me

Nevertheless, these photographs had quite an impact on me. Grand-daughter’s smiling eyes danced through the lens and touched my heart. I felt an amazing love connection with her. A gorgeous baby I had never set eyes on, except for these photos. A baby I never knew existed till the phone call with my brother — and my grand-daughter approaching her first birthday.

Oh yes, birthdays. Another highlight that is irrelevant to the family religion.

A baby I might never get to hold in my aching arms. Yet, I became transfixed by her innocent smiling eyes, filling me with wonder. I spoke softly to this amazing, beaming being,

“Hi there, beautiful, precious Emberlyn. I am Grandma. I’m sorry I can’t be with you right now, but I still love you. I love you unconditionally, no matter what. I am here for you, if you ever need me. I care about you and I already love you so much. Yes, I love you!”

Saying those words felt so right.

2011-04 Emberlyn 9 mo in Hearts of StoneI printed each and every photograph and set them in a prominent location, so that I might gaze upon this miracle every day. I wondered if my brother and my children know what a precious gift they have shared with me. Perhaps on some level they do know and we are all enriched by this tiny miracle.

As I stared in amazement at her photographs, mesmerized, I heard a tiny voice say “Gamma.”

I was jolted back to reality.

Yes, the pull on the heart strings can be strong. Keeping the family together is all well and good, but there is something to be said for personal integrity. Sadly, as long as that old family religion is in the picture, our family can only remain divided. Nevertheless, I keep hoping one day our hearts of stone will soften.

Related Reading

Kindness of a Stranger
Free Will in Religion
Watch on YouTube Hearts of Stone


Visit website "Phoenix of Faith" the memoir.
Follow on Twitter: @_phoenixoffaith
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