My Brother

The bond between freemasons

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had the opportunity to become very familiar with an older Brother in my Lodge. The relationship began when he requested my help taking him to his doctor’s appointment and returning him to his assisted living home. I expected it would take up to one hour to fulfill this request. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, I began working from home and had extra time. I thought that dedicating an hour or two of my day to assist this Brother was the least I could do to help. The “fun” began with a bit of an adventure when I picked up my older Brother. I drive a pickup truck, which is higher off the ground. Getting him into the truck was a challenge for both of us, but we managed to get him in safely. Right foot here, left cheek there (I cleaned up his words), and in he went. The doctor’s office was a mess of paperwork and insurance issues. I offered to help, but my Brother soon had everything under control.
WB Denis Funseth

After his name was called, I waited and waited. I used the time to take care of some work-related tasks, such as answering emails and making phone calls, but I could not help but wonder how it would affect my work schedule. A short hour later, my Brother was ready to go. The day was not done yet, he needed to buy a few things at a durable equipment store. Socks and a cane, I am trying to remember exactly what he needed, but they did not have anything on his list. He was not entirely done yet. Next, we then went grocery shopping.

I helped him as he picked the right peaches, looked for the hot cocoa he always bought, and rummaged around the store. We received unwanted attention as he struggled maneuvering his walker through the tightly packed displays. One man behind us made a disrespectful comment. Still, with a gentle voice, I turned and asked that he show some respect for the man I was accompanying, who was a veteran, and my Brother Mason. At that moment, I realized there was no other place in the world that I would rather be than helping my Brother with these simple tasks of life. We finished his shopping trip, complete with  confusion at the self-checkout. We laughed together instead of me trying to hurry him along. An employee came over to help, and we got her laughing too.

We were about three hours into the day by this time, and it was lunchtime. I suggested we get lunch; he said okay but insisted on treating me. I told him he gets to pick the place then. He chose Ted’s Hot Dogs, A good choice since it was very early Spring, sunny, and brisk and the hot dogs of summer did not yet start. Due to the pandemic, it was drive-through only, and the line was long since they did not have an official drive-through. I used the quiet time to ask him about our Lodge when he was my age. He shared fond memories of parties with bands and dancing; everyone brought their entire family. He spoke of good times and bad at Blazing Star. He encouraged me to keep pushing to get our Lodge back to the glory of those days when young men became Masons, Masons filled the seats, and all enjoyed Fellowship, Brotherhood, and the wonders of Masonry.

He reminded me that Masonry and our Brothers are worth the time and effort.

We finally got our foot-longs and fries, but he realized he had forgotten his wallet. Despite this inconvenience, we found an empty parking lot to eat and relax. We talked about various topics and mostly enjoyed each other’s company. As we finished our meals, I asked him, “What else can we do?” Initially hesitant, he asked if we could go to his house to pick up a few essential items. Without hesitation, we were on our way.

When we arrived at his house, I noticed his usual happy demeanor had changed. I assumed he was feeling overwhelmed with memories of his recently deceased wife. He mentioned that his daughter had moved some furniture around and that “things were not where they should be.” We talked about past holidays spent there, his children, and other subjects, but then he stopped and just looked around silently. With his back to me, he said, “I don’t think I’ll be coming back here anymore.” I reassured him that he would when he felt stronger, and it would be sooner than he thought.

Reassured, he gathered his essential items (a tube of toothpaste and a candy bar). He said he would like to return to the assisted living home now. The conversation on the way back was quiet and slow. I can only speak for myself, but I believe we both wanted something more to do, an excuse not to return to the “daily” of our individual lives. Nevertheless, the day was over, and we said our goodbyes. I was honored when he called me again a month later to take him to the same doctor. It was not as much of an adventure, but we could share valuable time together again. After getting cleared by the doctor, he soon returned to nursing care.

WB Denis Funseth's Gavel

I called him and talked on the phone for about 30 minutes. He told me how much he wanted to get back to Lodge and to be sure to relay his “hellos” to everyone. I assured him I would pass on his well-wishes and that I would pick him up for Lodge and take him home when he was ready. We said our goodbyes and agreed to talk again soon.

A few weeks later, I received the sad news that he had passed away. I could not help but wish I had called him again, but I was always too busy. I realized that if it were not for that first “favor” I did, I would not have really known my Brother.

This experience touched something inside me that makes me want to do better for each of you, and even for the men who are not yet Brothers. I hope that a Brother will one day drive me around aimlessly. The favor I did for him turned into a fantastic life lesson he gave me. I learned never to wait, be there for my Brothers, and jump at the opportunity to help or make a simple visit. I hardly knew him when I agreed to help him that first day, but now I can thoroughly say he truly is my Brother.

I want to know each of you as my Brothers. Saying we are Brothers is not enough; I want to know that if I were to pass away tomorrow, you would shed a tear and that I would do the same for you. The true goal is not the tears that fall for a lost Brother but to form a strong bond of Brotherhood while we are still together. When a Brother passes, the heart empties and the tears that fall are a testament to the depth of our bond. Fortunately, we have each other to rely on in the wake of loss. The First Degree prayer in Psalm 133 reminds us to live in unity, work towards a common goal, and reap the rewards of Brotherhood. I long for us to be close Brothers, to come together to work, relax, have fun, and learn. Our Lodge, built by Brothers before us, is a testament to the enduring bond of Brotherhood. Our predecessors met here each month, and through fellowship and shared experiences, they strengthened their bond. They mourned together when one passed, helped each other without hesitation, and celebrated together. We can rekindle that spirit in our Lodges. We have the potential; we only need to fan the flames.

Written by:
WB Todd M. Paterek is Worshipful Master, Lodge Education Officer, Northstar Coach, and Webmaster of Blazing Star Lodge #694 F&AM, East Aurora, New York.