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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Introducing "Witnesses In Memoriam"

On November 23, 1991, Tiffanie Chumita was driving to a friend's wedding.  She blew a tire along Interstate 17 in Phoenix that evening, and pulled onto the shoulder of the freeway.  As she was bent over into her trunk, reaching in for the car's spare, an elderly woman hit her from behind at approximately 70 mph.

According to friends, her legs were practically severed above the knee.  By the time she arrived at the hospital, she had lost a substantial amount of blood.  As one of Jehovah's Witnesses, allowing doctors to give her a blood transfusion was strictly forbidden.

Tiffanie was awake and alert most of the evening.  Her mom and dad were there, as was her brother Steven.  As word spread of her accident, friends arrived at the hospital to say goodbye.  There was no way to take her into emergency surgery to try to repair the damage, if surgeons were unable to give her blood.  She was dying.  Before she finally passed, friends and family members tracked down a male friend of hers.  He arrived at the hospital, just in time for Tiffany to tell him that she had been in love with him for years.  She was only 20 year old.

I was waiting for Tiffanie at the wedding reception that night.  We had bumped into each other at the State Fair a couple of weeks earlier.  We were both there alone, so we spent much of the afternoon riding rides together.  At the time, she was the love of my life.

The following week, a memorial service was held at the Park West Kingdom Hall that her family regularly attended.  Her father, Alex, was an elder in the congregation.  Now, a typical Kingdom Hall can seat about 120-150 people.  Almost 900 were in attendance to pay their respects to Tiffanie.  It was so crowded, that a speaker was set up in the parking lot, so that the hundreds waiting outside could hear the memorial "talk" (sermon).

That week, two additional women in my congregation died as a result of not accepting a blood transfusion.  Nicole Rojas was taken into surgery on short notice.  She was only 20 or 21.  Manuel, her husband of less than a year, ultimately made the decision to let her die based on his beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness.  Speaking for her, he felt that she would make the same decision to refuse blood, if conscious.

Another sister, (sadly, I forget her name) died during surgery while trying to remove a tumor from her kidney. Again, blood related.  She left two teenage girls and a grade school age son behind.

I went to three memorial services (Jehovah's Witnesses do not have traditional funerals) in the span of nine days.  It was a very emotional time for everyone on the West side of Phoenix.  Somehow, though all of this, the congregation's faith was strengthened.

These three women were made to look like martyrs;  servants of god that made the ultimate sacrifice.  Their families were praised and applauded.  They were treated like heroes within the organization.  In actuality, these poor women were brainwashed and bullied into essentially committing suicide on behalf of their church.

I think about Tiffanie practically every day.  Realistically, if not for the peer pressure that was placed upon her twenty years ago, she may have survived the accident.  Who's to say for sure.  With a number of surgeries, and the use of prosthetics, she may have been able to live a normal life.  She could have had children;  possibly grandchildren by now.  But, she was never given a chance.

Less than a year after Nicole's death, Manuel got remarried.  I attended the wedding, trying to figure out how everyone was okay with the situation that was taking place.  He has since gotten divorced and remarried again.  From what I understand, he's living in Mexico now, because that is "where the need is greater".  Friends tell me that every time he visits the Phoenix area, local Witnesses treat him like a king.  They hold him in such high regard, all for offering his wife up for slaughter 20 years ago.

I have started a new Facebook page called "Witnesses In Memoriam".  It's a place where friends and family members can go to write about those who have needlessly died on behalf of the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses.

I encourage you to post your stories about those close to you that you have lost.  While most of the stories will be related to those refusing life saving blood transfusions, many others have died at the hands of themselves or a loved one.  For some, the thought of leaving the organization, and having your entire family and circle of friends abandon you, was too much to bare.  Folks have committed suicide in lieu of cutting ties with everything they know.  Others were simply killed by their partner or parent, who was one of Jehovah's Witnesses.  Please remember them as well.

The page is not to debate scripture or organizational policy.  Also, ANY PRO-JW COMMENTS WILL PROMPTLY BE DELETED.

This is for Tiffanie Chumita, Nicole Rojas, and the tens of thousands of men, women and children that have died in vain.


Anonyvox said...

It is impossible for me to NOT condemn the fools for that ridiculous edict. You know I was raised in that culture; I carried my "blood card" in my wallet so that if I were in an accident and unable to speak for myself, the doctors would know to not give me a transfusion.

Within months of announcing my decision to leave the JWs when I was 21, my elder sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is/was a Witness at the time, and needed to have a double mastectomy to remove the cancer. The doctors were concerned with her decision to disallow transfusions if they were needed during the course of her treatment, and it wound up that they were never deemed medically necessary. Lucky for her, I guess, but I raged at the fact that she was willing to abandon my niece and nephew (3 and 6 at the time) to grow up without her because of a ludicrous, misinterpreted, antiquated bit of scripture in the Mosaic Law. JESUS WAS THE END OF THE MOSAIC LAW, based on the JW explanation that I always heard. Ergo, there really wasn't a need.

Arrgh, it still makes me so angry. I'm sorry you lost your friends, and I'm sorry for every family member and friend of every Witness who died needlessly.