Is A Master Mason’s Labor Ever Finished?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Brian Schimian

February of last year put me in the hardest position I have ever been in, as a man, son, father and Master Mason. Monday the 11th started earlier than normal and in a manner inconsistent over the past number of years. Shorty before 5AM, my phone rang. It was a notification that I had wished would never come. The nurse on the other end of the phone was calling from Florida to tell me that my father was in the ICU and that I had better get to him as soon as possible.

After a lifetime in the Fire Service, I knew by her tone that something was imminent. As I hastily showered and tossed clothes in a bag, travel arrangements were being made for me. I was out the door fast. I don’t know for sure, but the 90 plus miles to the airport was traversed at a pace that would have impressed anyone in the Cannonball Run.

Eventually I made it to my fathers bedside and was able to be with him for some time. While he slept, I did the best I could to keep busy on my iPad between stretches of time where I would just sit there and watch my dad as he struggled to breath. One of the last things my father said to me was, “..but I have so much more that I wanted to do...” I remember telling him, “...don’t worry dad, I am here... I’ve got it... You just go ahead and rest now...”.

My father had been a Master Mason for as long as I could remember. Anyone that has read my previous works probably has a good understanding of how Masonry and my life is intertwined. My father’s life work was helping others. He always had some project or maybe ten going on, especially after retiring. It wasn’t until my recent impromptu trip halfway across the Country that the gravity of our last conversation REALLY fell on my shoulders.

For a man that has done and given so much to other people, what on God’s green earth could he possibly have left to do?!?!

From then on, I have had some of my own trials and tribulations in life. My main sounding board, confidant, advisor, friend and Brother was no longer a phone call away. My dad always told me that “If it is meant to be, then it will be.",  “Just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean that you can’t follow the road ahead of you.” and “Everything happens for a reason.”.

Why the opportunity provided itself for me to make a trip with absolutely zero planning, I have no idea. But just as I was going to pull the plug on the idea, I took a deep breath and thought to myself, why has everything lined up and made this possible? I still don’t know, but I went forward without further hesitation. It just felt like the right thing to do.

Why was I led to a Masonic podcast while watching over my father in the hospital? The first piece was on patience, something my father was very good at.

Why have I been blessed with friends that feel bonded to me stronger than what is left of my family (excluding my children)? And they all speak freely to me, not sugar coating much of anything, which I appreciate. I am given advice like “...Your dad and true friends will be with you every step of the way...” or “...Predictable is Preventable...”. True Words. Centering Words.

In one respect, this world can be a very lonely place, and then someone comes along and helps you out without even being asked, possibly without even knowing they have done anything at all.

I don’t know and I certainly don’t understand the path I am on right now. Maybe I don’t need to. Maybe in some unforeseen way, I am carrying on my father’s labors that he couldn’t get to. One thing is for sure, if a pathway is set before me, I am taking it as far as it goes. As I did with the trip across the Country. I don’t know if there is a greater point to it than checking out an awesome museum and furthering the Brotherhood with a new Brother. But I felt better for going. For a few days, it seemed like the road ahead was going to be bumpy and only leading to bad places. But because a Brother and friend that is close enough to me to be my brother, chose not to stand idly by, things might just work out fairly decently. Unfortunately, I don’t think I will ever get over my stance of being the “helper” and not the one needing help. That just isn’t in my nature. I may never feel comfortable taking resources that someone else may need.

This has all led up to today. To a definitive feeling that there is something I need to do. Not like, yeah I have to get the leaves cleaned up, but more of a drive. Something from inside is pushing me and something from without is pulling me. Specifically, there are two things that I feel I have to do or be a part of in some significant way.

1. My recent venture out of “retirement” and back into the venue of Public Service has me not so much on the direct operations side, but more of the local government administration side of the table. As one can imagine with my background, I have been placed on certain committees where I may be able to do the most good. For some reason I have been drawn into one particular aspect of Emergency Management. One that I have had minimal experience with during my previous career, but one that I never spent much time really thinking about.

P.T.S.D. - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

According to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs:
PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood. Most survivors of trauma return to normal given a little time. However, some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. These individuals may develop PTSD. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged, and these symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person’s daily life.

People with PTSD experience three different kinds of symptoms. The first set of symptoms involves reliving the trauma in some way such as becoming upset when confronted with a traumatic reminder or thinking about the trauma when you are trying to do something else. The second set of symptoms involves either staying away from places or people that remind you of the trauma, isolating from other people, or feeling numb. The third set of symptoms includes things such as feeling on guard, irritable, or startling easily.

PTSD is marked by clear biological changes as well as psychological symptoms. PTSD is complicated by the fact that people with PTSD often may develop additional disorders such as depression, substance abuse, problems of memory and cognition, and other problems of physical and mental health. The disorder is also associated with impairment of the person’s ability to function in social or family life, including occupational instability, marital problems and divorces, family discord, and difficulties in parenting.

PTSD can be treated with psychotherapy (‘talk’ therapy) and medicines such as antidepressants. Early treatment is important and may help reduce long-term symptoms. Unfortunately, many people do not know that they have PTSD or do not seek treatment. This fact sheet will help you to better understand PTSD and the how it can be treated.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Although PTSD symptoms can begin right after a traumatic event, PTSD is not diagnosed unless the symptoms last for at least one month and either cause significant distress or interfere with work or home life. In order to be diagnosed with PTSD, a person must have three different types of symptoms: re- experiencing symptoms, avoidance and numbing symptoms, and arousal symptoms.

Re-experiencing symptoms are symptoms that involve reliving the traumatic event. There are a number of ways in which people may relive a trauma. They may have upsetting memories of the traumatic event. These memories can come back when they are not expecting them. At other times the memories may be triggered by a traumatic reminder such as when a combat veteran hears a car backfire, a motor vehicle accident victim drives by a car accident or a rape victim sees a news report of a recent sexual assault. These memories can cause both emotional and physical reactions. Sometimes these memories can feel so real it is as if the event is actually happening again. This is called a "flashback." Reliving the event may cause intense feelings of fear, helplessness, and horror similar to the feelings they had when the event took place.

Avoidance symptoms are efforts people make to avoid the traumatic event. Individuals with PTSD may try to avoid situations that trigger memories of the traumatic event. They may avoid going near places where the trauma occurred or seeing TV programs or news reports about similar events. They may avoid other sights, sounds, smells, or people that are reminders of the traumatic event. Some people find that they try to distract themselves as one way to avoid thinking about the traumatic event.

Numbing symptoms are another way to avoid the traumatic event. Individuals with PTSD may find it difficult to be in touch with their feelings or express emotions toward other people. For example, they may feel emotionally "numb" and may isolate from others. They may be less interested in activities you once enjoyed. Some people forget, or are unable to talk about, important parts of the event. Some think that they will have a shortened life span or will not reach personal goals such as having a career or family.

People with PTSD may feel constantly alert after the traumatic event. This is known as increased emotional arousal, and it can cause difficulty sleeping, outbursts of anger or irritability, and difficulty concentrating. They may find that they are constantly ‘on guard’ and on the lookout for signs of danger. They may also find that they get startled.

What other problems do people with PTSD experience?

It is very common for other conditions to occur along with PTSD, such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. More than half of men with PTSD also have problems with alcohol. The next most common co-occurring problems in men are depression, followed by conduct disorder, and then problems with drugs. In women, the most common co-occurring problem is depression. Just under half of women with PTSD also experience depression. The next most common co-occurring problems in women are specific fears, social anxiety, and then problems with alcohol.

People with PTSD often have problems functioning. In general, people with PTSD have more unemployment, divorce or separation, spouse abuse and chance of being fired than people without PTSD. Vietnam veterans with PTSD were found to have many problems with family and other interpersonal relationships, problems with employment, and increased incidents of violence.

People with PTSD also may experience a wide variety of physical symptoms. This is a common occurrence in people who have depression and other anxiety disorders. Some evidence suggests that PTSD may be associated with increased likelihood of developing medical disorders. Research is ongoing, and it is too soon to draw firm conclusions about which disorders are associated with PTSD.

How common is PTSD?

An estimated 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women (10.4%) twice as likely as men (5%) to develop PTSD. About 3.6 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 to 54 (5.2 million people) have PTSD during the course of a given year. This represents a small portion of those who have experienced at least one traumatic event; 60.7% of men and 51.2% of women reported at least one traumatic event. The traumatic events most often associated with PTSD for men are rape, combat exposure, childhood neglect, and childhood physical abuse. The most traumatic events for women are rape, sexual molestation, physical attack, being threatened with a weapon, and childhood physical abuse.

One of the most disturbing statistics I have come across is that 22 or more Veterans suffering from some form of PTSD commit suicide everyday.

2. This situation I have a fairly extensive background and familiarity with. The Order of DeMolay. It is no secret that with everything that I have on my plate right now, I have been more than a little introspective. Trying to find those things that gave me my roots and foundation. At the end of last November we found ourselves celebrating my son’s 12th birthday. I see a lot of myself in my boy. Well, he is doing better in school and can play a musical instrument better than I could. But when I was young, DeMolay was certainly a defining force in my life. You may say that being initiated into DeMolay and the Brotherhood I found there certainly began the shaping of my ashlar. I took some time to look up the DeMolay Chapters around my area and was saddened to find that there were none. I can not help but think that there has got to be more sons and grandsons of Master Masons in my area that would love the opportunity to introduce them into Masonry at this point of their life. The character building, public speaking, parliamentary law and brotherhood experiences can not be duplicated. To be a young man and feel that you are part of something so great and important is an unbelievable and humbling experience. I hope that I can get some personal things off my plate in short order and find the way to starting a local DeMolay Chapter. It is just something I feel needs to be done.

My hope is for all those yet to be Initiated, Passed & Raised, that all my Brethren will continue the work that is laid out in front of them. Wether you fully understand the reach you have or not. Continue your Labors until it is time to pass the trowel to another and enjoy your refreshments with the Supreme Architect of the Universe when you are called.

You never know who is counting on it.


Bro. Brian Schimian is Life of Member A.O. Fay #676 in Highland Park Illinois and the Medinah Shriners - Lake County Shrine Club. He was also the Past Master Counselor of DeMolay - Lakes Chapter in 1995. Brian is a father of two children."Start Square, Finish Level"

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