It all started on Saturday, usually a busy day anyway doing all of the things you cant do during the week, but this one was extra busy with errands and the shuttling duties that accompany a medium sized family. I received a voice mail from the daughter of a Lodge Brother stating that he had passed away and the family were wondering if it were possible if we, his lodge, could perform a Masonic funeral service.....on Sunday.
Now, I received this message at around 11:00AM and knew I could not return the call for a couple of hours so I started to think about how I could perform this last duty and possibly wrangle up a few Brothers to help in a 24 hour period. It takes a couple of weeks to put together a decent Entered Apprentice degree so I worried about how this very important service would come together.
Even before I got the chance to act I received a call from my Secretary checking to see if I got the message. I told him I had and was just about to try to put something together and asked all of the questions a young Worshipful Master asks of his wise old Secretary. I had attended every memorial service that I could since I joined the lodge, so I knew how they went, but this would be my first one as WM.
The Masonic Funeral or Memorial service is probably the most important public event that we as Masons do because not only is it our last tribute to our fallen Brother, it is one of the most moving pieces of ritual we do in front of non-Masons. It is a chance to show the family of the deceased why it is their man was a Mason and what it means to be one and it is a chance for his friends and family to have a glimpse into our fraternity. I can not stress enough of its importance for I have seen amazing ones, as in my Chance Inspiration (probably my best post ever) and bad ones as in my How Do You Tell a Past Master He Is Wrong so I felt the pressure to deliver something good for an over Fifty year member of the lodge.
I started making the calls to my officers and received an overwhelmingly positive response. I then sent out a general email to the Brethren and received a few more affirmatives. I went to the Lodge building and grabbed the accoutrement needed and brought it home for cleaning and polishing. The next day I received some regrets but also some unexpected responses for help and went about preparing for the service. I had the Brothers come to my house an hour before hand to practice and my street filled with cars with Masonic emblems. When the time came we all loaded up into cars and headed for the graveyard.
As a man who was raised Catholic, has Buddhist tendencies and now goes to an Episcopal church I had experienced many types of burials but this was my first Jewish one. My fallen Brother was a Navy vet also, so there were a couple of sailors there who performed their service first with the ever moving Taps and folding of the American Flag then it was our turn. After we were finished I stayed with a Past Master of my lodge and watched the burial service of our Brothers faith and was quite moved.
Freemasonry is perhaps the only vehicle where men of all faiths can sit together and profess faith without infringing on another's and come away better. We all believe in something better and can actually experience, if we truly live up to our credo, each others faith and cement faith itself. As different as the words and ritual of my Brothers religion were, they were familiar to me because at a time of loss it is faith that keeps us moving forward with love.
We are all one.