Years ago I developed a membership management system for my home Lodge. It tracked the standard things you might expect: initiation dates, demographics, Masonic offices held, birth date and the like. When the secretary requested a new feature, I'd add it and test it out in a database that was a duplicate of the live information he used. On occasion I would refresh the test data I had from the live system the secretary had, so the information I had was nearly as complete as his. In fact, on one occasion the secretary called to say his computer had crashed and he hadn't been making backups, so we used my data to recover. Each year for Christmas, the Lodge delivers flowers to the widows of our former members. The year I was Senior Warden we had the Secretary use the system to print a list of the widows and their addresses.
Then several of us divided into teams to deliver the flowers using the list. The Lodge Master and I joined forces and together drove to a widow's house to make our first delivery. Neither of us had known the Brother, but that didn't matter. We walked to the door, rang the bell and the widow answered. We greeted her and were very sincere in wishing her season's greetings and our condolences for the loss of her husband. The poor woman looked a little surprised. She looked back into the living room and called out, "Joe... Are you dead?" Joe came to the door, "Not the last time I checked." Now it was our turn to be surprised.
The Master and I apologized for the "clerical oversight" and made a hasty retreat. It turns out, when I sent the Secretary that test database to recover his lost data, I had been using Joe's name to test the method for marking Brothers as having passed away. Prior to restoring the data, I did not resurrect him. You might blame me for this, but I prefer to think of it as a computer error. By the way, we let Joe's wife keep the flowers.
Steve Harrison, 33° KCCH, is a Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Senior Warden. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and is a member of the DeMolay Legion of Honor.