“Last night I stood at the casket of a friend and prayed, not for him but for me.”
I awoke as if startled by some loud sound but as I sat up in bed the house was quiet. The words above immediately just came to me as if my mind had been holding them waiting for my eyes to open so it could engage. It didn’t take me long to realize why they were there as I had participated in a Masonic funeral service for a friend the previous evening.
I replayed the previous night in my mind and I can recall praying, but honestly, I can’t recall praying for myself.
The Masonic memorial service uses these lines:
“The last offices of respect and love that we pay to the dead are useless forms except as they are lessons to the living.”
I had heard this line many times before but not until this morning did it become so vivid and then sunk so deeply into my thinking.
In another part of the service the Master offers this admonition:
“Our present gathering will be without profit unless it awakens serious reflections and strengthens us with resolutions for the future. Seeing then my brothers, the uncertainty of life and the unsubstantial nature of all its pursuits, forget not that preparation which is wisdom to make and weakness to defer.”
Like the previous statement this line is also very familiar but again has never had such a deep impact until now. It seems that my Masonic brother’s funeral service did “awaken serious reflection.”
I was still trying to understand after so many times participating in Masonic funerals and hearing these lessons why this time did the experience linger in my mind and cause such contemplation, when I received word of another Brother’s death. This time it was someone even closer to me and I felt compelled to lead the Masonic service. So the next few days were spent reading and familiarizing myself with the service and not much thought about “why” we were doing it.
I also didn’t give much thought to the fact that I would be conducting the service on my birthday, that is until now.
Did the words in the service I heard one week and then actually spoke the next week; did they strengthen me with “resolutions for the future?” Did these instances of mortality cause me to pause and really understand that life is very short and that I should, as we also say in the service, “embrace the present moment” and prepare for our own death? Did I learn those lessons? I hope I did.
So back to the vivid words that startled me that one morning; “last night I stood at the casket of a friend and prayed, not for him but me.” I said I didn’t recall praying for myself but I guess without knowing it I was. I was praying that I learned the lessons that my Brother’s Masonic service was designed to impart.
I was praying those who will someday stand at my casket will pray also; not because I died but because my death caused them to pause and think.