That line comes from a song my parents used to play on our record player at home many times throughout my youth entitled, “I’ll never get out of this world alive” by Hank Williams. The song which was written by Williams and his music publisher Frank Rose, a partner of Brother Roy Acuff, who was a member of East Nashville Lodge No. 560, Tennessee. Ironically the song was released after the death of Hank William who passed away on New Years Day in 1953. The song hit number one on the charts later that January.
When I was a child every morning seemed to start out the same way. From my bed I could tell it was 5:30 in the morning without an alarm clock, It didn’t matter what season of the year it was, the stillness of the morning would be shattered by the sound of my mother rattling the grates of the cook stove in the kitchen, preparing to build a fire to warm the house and later to make breakfast for the family.
The smell of coffee and wood smoke began to fill the whole house as the crackle of the fire inside the stove broke the stillness of the morning. My mother would take a cup of coffee and that days edition of the Journal Gazette newspaper and would start her morning ritual of reading the days obituaries.
She would joke about her routine by saying “Every morning I get up and read the obituaries and if my name isn’t printed inside then I get my day started.” Once she finished reading her paper and the contents of her coffee cup were gone she would put out the remainder of her unfinished Camel cigarette and depending on the time of year, mom would either put her cast iron frying pan to make our breakfast before she took us to school or perhaps start her day working in her quarter acre garden or canning and preserving the bounty the Grand Architect of the universe assisted her in growing. Mom worked hard her entire life until that day, March 21,1991, when she apparently did read her name in that newspaper, because she left us to reside in heaven. It was time for a rest after a long hard scramble life.
Maybe it’s my age but over the last year I’ve noticed the passing of friends, family and my Masonic Brethren. They've been shedding their mortal coils in a far greater number than I can ever remember in my life before this point. I don’t discover the demise of friends and Brethren from the newspaper like my mother did most of the time, I receive word through emails or through Facebook.
Sadly these deaths have made me reflect on my own situation. Now that I have reached my fifth decade. I've been fighting things like blindness and other physical maladies. I realize I am no longer the young man I once was. Don’t get me wrong, I am not calling it quits anytime soon but I am beginning to realize I am not immortal.
We all know the Craft does not say that our dogma will, if you practice and abide by our teachings assure your advancement to heaven or as we call it “The Grand Lodge Above” or “The Celestial Lodge”. Freemasonry is not, and never will be a religion. That is one reason why we expect members to possess a belief in a Supreme Being. But we do believe the teachings of Freemasonry will make you a better man, which should, if practiced correctly assist you with your journey to where you believe you will reside once you leave this earth. We may not be a religion but our Fraternity does teach us many things about death and mortality.
Freemasonry teaches us much about death, an exemplification of the symbolism which reminds us about our time on this earth and just how short it can be.
It also teaches us, as it does in all of its teachings, that death is the one true way each one us us who travel on that level of time are truly on the level. Death doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter your age, your color, your sex, or the size of your bank account. You will not be spared. Death is the true “Grand Leveler”, as the rapper Apathy sings about. We are reminded about this fact through the symbology of the skull, that symbol that millennials find so fascinating.
Other symbols include the symbol of Father Time unraveling the ringlets of the hair of a maiden, a broken column to a single sprig of evergreen and many more I won’t mention here.
I like to believe as my personal faith teaches me, that all of these friends, family and Brethren whom I now mourn, are waiting for me in a place where there is no sorrow or pain. To stand in front of the Grand Architect of the Universe wearing my white leather apron to hear those words, “ Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” As we are told by the Senior Warden as my first apron was tied around my waist
In the end we are all just guessing about what lies before us. We all have our beliefs or faiths. One day we will finish walking, “that level of time to that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns." We will know if we were right or if we were mistaken. All I know is I hope I can see my friends and hug my family and see if my mother's cooking is as good as I remember, before I sit down to spread some cement with some of my Brethren who I greatly miss.