"The Scythe is an emblem of time, which cuts the brittle thread of life, and launches us into eternity." These words spoken near the end of the Master Mason Emblems lecture catch us of guard. I know the first time I heard them, I almost didn't hear anything else after. As the lecture moves on, we hear the following, "We follow our friends to the brink of the grave, and standing on the shore of a vast ocean, gaze with exquisite anxiety, until the last dreadful struggle is over and see them sink into the fathomless abyss."
I've always thought that that particular bit was a striking visual representation of what it's like to watch people around you die. But the lecture continues still, "We feel our own feet slide from the precarious bank on which we stand, and but a few suns more, my Brother, and we too will be whelmed mid Death's awful waves, there rest in the stilly shade where the worm shall cover us, and naught but silence and darkness reign around our melancholy abode."
Is there a better description of feeling that emotional anxiety that comes with realizing our own mortality? "...Our own feet sliding", reminds me of growing up on the ocean, standing there gazing out at the vastness and as the waves crash and the water creeps up the beach, we think, surely it won't get us. But it's reach is underestimated. We stand there, gazing out, and in a matter of minutes our feet are buried in the sand as each waves pulled us deeper into the ground.
The last two weeks have been trying. This past Sunday, a Fraternity Brother, along with his wife were in a bad car accident. They will recover. That same evening, another Fraternity Brother in my area suffered a traumatic stroke. He's still in the hospital, and has been unresponsive, although he has had some marked improvement. Then we lost Bro. Tech, aka Frank Rook, aka Lance Kates on Thursday. Later that same day, we lost Jim Tresner, a titan in Masonry. And the morning I am writing this, Sunday July 15th, my sister called me to tell me my brother passed. Totally unexpected. He was 46.
We return to the lecture, focussing now on the Hour Glass. Time moves, it passes almost imperceptibly. "Today he [man] puts forth the tender leaves of hope; tomorrow blossoms, and bears his blushing honors thick upon him; the next day comes the frost, which nips the shoot, and when he thinks his greatness is still aspiring, he falls, like autumn leaves to enrich our Mother Earth."
Death is organic. It's biology, it happens everyday. These losses are nothing in comparison to the whole, but in my circles, we received a reminder of the important lesson on Death. A good friend, Bro. Ben Wallace was talking to us one day and he said, "The test always comes before the lesson." Well, we've been tried and tested. Perhaps the lesson is in the retrospection of how we handle these tests.
It's time to keep moving.