April 14, 2011

The Masonic Funeral that almost didn’t happen

Posted in Freemasonry tagged , , , , , at 3:19 pm by GeneGoldman


Many years ago, I was active in a few Masonic forums on the internet. I got an email from a Brother in the mid-west.

His dad’s best friend was living out here. He was a life member of a lodge back “home” in the mid-west, but never joined one here. Anyway, the man’s doctor advises him to make his final arrangements sooner rather than later. He really wants a Masonic funeral, so he calls a member of the lodge near his house.

The member – meaning well but doing the opposite – tells him all about the problems and issues involved with this sort of thing. This secretary has to call the Grand Secretary, who has to write to the Grand Secretary, who has to call the secretary of his home lodge, who has to do the research… it might take a month or two to sort it all out. he was very sorry, but he didn’t see how everything could get done, verifying his membership and everything, in time.

As far as the process and protocols were concerned, he was correct.The member said it could take a month or more, probably two. The doctor said he might have a couple weeks, more likely one.

[sigh]

The old man gets on the phone to the dad and starts crying. He is a 50 year member in his lodge and can’t even get a Masonic funeral.

That’s when the son contacted me, asking if there was ANYTHING I could do. Thankfully, I know a few people here and there, and don’t mind causing a stir. I got the Inspector for that lodge’s district on the phone (prepared to go higher if needed, but a good start) and explained the situation. My friend, the Inspector just about blew up! I won’t repeat his comments, mainly because I don’t think the terms of service here will allow such language. Did I mention that the Inspector is a very religious man?  :)

When he calmed down, he asked me if he could call me back. I don’t know what he and the Master of that lodge talked about, but when he called back he told me that the funeral arrangements were completed – with the member’s deepest apologies.

The man got his Masonic funeral. I was both angry and sad when the son contacted me. I was relieved and redeemed when it was over.I saw two lessons-learned here. One, the member was willing to deprive this dying man of his last wish, because the paperwork and red tape was going to take too long.Two, happily, the inspector put Brotherly Love, Justice Charity, Relief and just plain old humanity ahead of the red tape.

Turned out the man was in good standing. But what would have happened if he wasn’t? Was the sky going to open up and spit lightening? Was the entire free world going to be placed in desperate peril? Or would someone have to say “Woops” and life go on?

Happily, I am a member of a fraternity in which the vast majority of members really do care – about each other and about everyone else. The events described here do happen sometimes, but whenever the tape gets too red, another Mason is always around to sort it out.

I remain happy to be a Mason.

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5 Comments »

  1. Ruth said,

    Wow, that brought tears to my eyes. To think that a Mason was nearly denied his last wish — for a Masonic funeral. Thank you Gene for caring enough to light some fires.

    • GeneGoldman said,

      Thanks. To me, the interesting thing is the speed with which the whole thing was straightened out. Any organization – in time – produces red tape and bureaucrats. The mark of an organization is if it enables people to cut through it when necessary and serve it’s members.

  2. S. Vanderloot said,

    My tears fell

  3. D Pavey said,

    It is almost as bad when, in the course of celebrating the rememberance of a man, at his funeral, only a handful of brothers bother to show up to pay last respects. It is not simply a duty to be performed, but a service not unlike what you would like to receive when it’s your turn.

    My father-in-law was diagnosed with a rare fast moving cancer, in operable, late last year. He was a long-term member of the Masons and other fraternal organizations, similar to the Masons, whose rites were semi-derrived from the same.

    His service included governing his lodge twice, secretary for district meetings, presided over the district and received merritorious service honors. He too requested rites, several months before his death, only to receive a no-show from the fraternity, for visitors, except for a few close friends. A call was placed to the administrator of that Lodge a month before the service, and a week before to ensure all was set up. He greatest wish though, was to receive visitors while he was still alive from his fraternal acquaintences, which also didn’t happen. The other fraternal Lodge was a no show, the AASR and Masons had a small turn out.

    He was also a 2nd Lt in the US Army Air Corps, during WWII, received a meritorious service award for service to his country, yet, the American Legion could not muster a service team, even though he had served for others in that capacity in the past. A pair of cadets from ROTC filled that role for him, as that was all that could be found to help out.

    The importance of the funeral rites are immense. It is an opportunity to offer a glimpse into the beauty and richness of the tenets and rites of the faternity to the public at a time, when our services – Charity, Brotherly Love, Relief are desperately needed by the Brother’s family, potentially, his Widow or orphans.

    We can and should strive to do better than this.

    He was a member of the Eagles, Loyal Order of Moose, American Legion, Masons, Scottish Rite. I was a Moose (past treasurer and past editor), still am a Mason (past editor and past webmaster), Royal Arch (past secretary and editor) and Scottish Rite.

    • GeneGoldman said,

      We can, and should, yes. Not just the fraternity of Freemasonry, but our entire society.
      The funeral service we have in Masonry is one of the things we do best, in my opinion. It really is a beautiful work. Sadly, most Masons never take the opportunity to see one. Happily, our brother in this post did, and it was actually rather well attended. Both by the Lodge in question and his VFW Post (or whatever it was).

      Thanks for your comments, my brother.


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