Entering my Third Trimester of Life


Today, I begin my last third of my life. I know it will be astounding, as the others have been.

My first segment was my formative time – growing up, emerging from my mother’s womb and

her day-to-day nourishment. And, it included my entering into the unknown while trying to find myself

– and barely surviving the deaths in Jonestown, Guyana. These were my formative years. I learned

about the person my mother trained me to be, and then I learned to be strong enough to survive an

unimaginable experience and keep going.

The second trimester, I went into hiding. I moved into another community/commune with its

own culture and rules. I healed there with their protection and nurturing. I was loved and was able to

love again. I met my wonderful husband of 32 years there, and my astounding son was born. During

that trimester, Synanon self-destructed, but it had given me time to re-group. In 1990, I went to work

on myself. I went back to school and got my BA in Philosophy/Psychology, and then my California Clear

Multiple Subject Credential. I started working as a Bilingual Teacher.

By 1998, the 20th and my profession were pillars that gave me strength. I returned to renew my relationships with

other survivors and family members of both survivors and victims of Jonestown. We gathered at the

anniversary and in many other settings, and pieced together the details of what we each knew. That

was and is very much a part of my healing. Together, we entered into the murky waters of discovery.

How had Jonestown happened on our watch?

My own healing took many small steps. I first had to feel whole, outside of the experience.

Next, I had to acknowledge that I was strong, and made stronger by my survival. Then, I had to

reconnect with my beloved friends and join with them to figure out what happened. And, finally, I had

to and have to admit that my whole journey in Peoples Temple makes up a huge part of the person I am


In 2010, I published my book JONESTOWN SURVIVOR: An Insider’s Look. That, too, was very

much a part of my healing. As I wrote it, I could empty out parts of my soul. It was cleansing. In a more

physical way, it allowed me to move on somewhat. I had been selective about who I would open up to.

Over the years, I had many good friends who knew nothing about my involvement in Peoples Temple.

I was not ready to discuss it. I just couldn’t. When I did “open up” the flood gates, I felt enormous

pressure to tell every last detail to justify my role and to even explain why I loved it and would not

have left Jonestown. And, after a telling, I was very critical of my attempt, questioning if I had included

enough. Once I wrote my book, I could accept that if I missed a detail, and if a person were curious, it

was all in there. It was a huge relief. I furthered my own recovery by going public. In the past years,

I have been in documentaries, on radio, television, and internet programs, and in many universities,

libraries, Quaker venues, book stores, and other settings.

Now, in 2014, as I retire from my teaching profession, I am ready. My final words to my

students were, “Finish your education by working as hard as you can, work for Justice and human rights,

and travel.” I may have finished my formal education. But, I will continue to work for human rights and

travel. My own path also includes more Peoples Temple work. I will continue on Oral History recordings

of survivors and those who are part of the history of Peoples Temple. I will do that to honor those who

died because they envisioned a racism-free world and were working to create it.

I have never been prepared to anticipate where my leading will take me. I rejected the most

direct path all too often, to make my own. No doubt, I’ll continue to do that.

anniversary of Jonestown, I had a stable life – my family, my education,

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