I’ve been a mason for six years and I’ve never been to a Masonic funeral.
This isn’t amazing luck, or anything. I’ve had plenty of opportunities. I’ve passed on all of them. It’s an easy thing to do when it’s a 89 year old whom you’ve never heard of or met, but I’ve skipped out on the funeral of a brother who helped raise me. A good guy, my age, who died far sooner than he had any right to.
It was probably one of my first tests as a mason, and I copped out. And yeah, that’s terrible. I’m not a great guy, when it comes down to it.
One of our brothers, a two year mason, has been making a point to answer any and all such signs and summons. He’s a disabled veteran, so he’s got the time, but in truth, and probably because he is a veteran, he has a better sense of the value of life and high cost of living than I.
I like to think I’m deep, but I have a very childish view of death, in truth.
Our brother really cracks the whip trying to get us to go to funerals lately. He guilts us and shames us, and calls us out. Brothers make their excuses. “Sorry, I have work,” or “it was too short notice.” He knows it’s bullshit. So do I. And when it’s my turn, I’m honest. “I’m sorry, but I’m very uncomfortable with death. I’m working on it.”
And I am. I’ve said before that masonry should hurt. And it frequently does for me. I have a very hard time measured against its unyielding tools. But it keeps me on my toes. I’ll be the master of the lodge one of these years, and there’s no skipping the funerals then.
But you know what, brothers? Skip mine. It’s fine.
I mean it. One thing I do know about death is that I won’t be around for my funeral in any sociable sense. Sure, it’s nice to think of my friends and brothers all attending, but then I suppose that means I have to die first. Even if it was full of brothers I’ve never met, I can definitely think fondly of that, but if I’m ever paying dues just to get my funeral, just forget it. I’m not in this for the funeral. I’m in this for the work. For myself. And to learn to be for more than just myself.
And that takes time, and care. And I’ve accomplished that in some ways, and have a long, long way to go in others. And if you’re not there yet when I lay down my tools, that’s fine brother. I ain’t in this for funeral.
If I need you, I’ll do what I can to summon the bravery to hold out my hand and ask for yours, and any aide that can come with it. And if you can relieve my pain, I’d be very thankful, and will try to return such kindness. But if you can’t quite meet me there, I understand, but I expect you to reach. Reach until your arm hurts, but pull back before the pain sets in. I’ll be fine. It was the effort that made me smile, and that was all I can best hope for.
No need to take a dead man’s hand. This craft is a thing for the living, not the dead. There’s no endgame. No winning at the funeral.
Fail me, brother. That’s alright too. There are no expectations of results. And there’s no opponent. You’re not racing me, you’re only going for your own personal best. And fail me. That’s fine too, because none of us are perfect.
G-d does not expect you to attain perfection.
But that does not excuse you from the duty to try.