By Bro. Todd M. Paterek
This past year I got to know an older Brother quite well. It started with a request to take him to his doctor’s appointment and back to his assisted living home. One hour, at most. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I recently started working from home and thought that an hour or two out of my day for a Brother is the least I can do to help.
The “Fun” began when I picked him up. I drive a pickup truck, like any other, is a bit higher off the ground so getting him in was a bit of an exercise, for both of us. Right foot here, left cheek there (I cleaned up his words) and in he went. At the Doctor’s office, it was a fumble of paperwork and insurance, I offered to help but he had everything under control. His name was called, and I waited and waited. I began to wonder if I would be able to get my work done or if I would have to work late to make up for the lost time. I took some phone calls and answered a few emails and a “quick” hour later he was ready to go. No, not home yet, he needed a couple of things at the durable equipment store. Socks and a cane, I do not remember exactly but they did not have either of them anyway. He was not quite done, time to go grocery shopping. I followed him around the store as he chose the right peaches, looked for the hot cocoa he always bought and rummaged around here and there. We held up numerous people as he struggled to maneuver his walker through the displays. One man commented behind me under his breath “let’s move it old man”. With a gentle voice, I turned and requested that he show some respect for the man I was starting to grow impatient with myself. This Mason, my Brother. It was that second I realized that there was no other place in the world that I would rather be than helping my Brother with the simple tasks of life. We finished his shopping trip, capped by confusion at the self-checkout. We laughed together instead of me trying to hurry him along, an employee came over to help and we got her laughing too. By this time, we were about three hours into the day, and it was lunchtime. I suggested we get lunch he said okay but he insisted that he treated. I told him he gets to pick the place then. He chose Ted’s Hot Dogs (good choice). Because of the pandemic, it was drive-through only and the line was long since they didn’t have an official drive-through. I used the quiet time to ask him what our Lodge was like when he was my age. He told me about parties with bands, dancing, and everyone brought their entire family. He spoke of good times, and bad at Blazing Star. He told me to keep pushing to get our Lodge back to the glory of those days when young men became Masons, Masons filled the seats, and all enjoyed Fellowship, Brotherhood, and the wonders of Masonry. He encouraged me to keep trying because Masonry and our Brothers are worth the time and effort.
We finally got our foot-longs and fries, he realized he did not bring any money, Yadda, yadda, yadda, and we found an empty parking lot to eat, and relax. We talked about this and that and mostly enjoyed the sun and each other’s company. As we took our last bites, I asked him; “what else can we do?”. He was hesitant but asked if we could go to his house because he had to pick up a few essential things. Without hesitation, we were on our way. When we got there, I could tell there was a change in his usual happy manner. I assumed he was flooded with memories of his wife who recently passed. He noted that his daughter moved the TV and couch. “Things are not where they should be”, he remarked. We talked about holidays spent there, his children, and other subjects not so important. Then he stopped and just looked around. With his back to me, he said, “I don’t think I’ll be coming back here anymore”. I assured him that he will when he is stronger, and it will be sooner than he can imagine. Reassured he gathered his important items (a tube of toothpaste, and a candy bar) and said he would like to go back to the assisted living home now. We packed up and headed back. The conversation was as quiet and slow as I drove. I can only speak for myself, but I believe we both wanted to have something more to do, an excuse to not return to the “daily” of our individual lives. Nevertheless, the day together was done. We returned and we said our goodbyes. I was honored that he called me another time to take him to the same doctor a month later. It was not as much of an adventure, but we were able to share valuable time together again. All cleared by the doctor he soon returned home with nursing care.
I called him and talked on the phone for about 30 minutes he told me how much he wanted to get back to Lodge and to be sure to relay his “helloes” to everyone. I told him I would pass his well-wishes, and when he is ready I will pick him up for Lodge and take him home. We said our goodbyes and agreed we would talk again soon.
A few weeks later I found out that he had passed. I wanted to call him one more time, but I was always too busy. I lost my opportunity, but I reminded myself that if it were not for that first “favor” I did I would not have even really known my Brother. He touched something inside of me, something that makes me want to do better for each of you, for the men that are not yet Brothers, and hopefully for that Brother that will one day drive me around aimlessly. The favor I did for him turned into the amazing life lesson he gave to me. Never wait, be there for your Brothers. Jump at the opportunity to help or a simple visit. I hardly knew him when I agreed that first day and now I can fully say he truly is my Brother.
My Brother receiving his 50 years of service award with his wife, the Grand Master of Masons in the State Of New York, The Deputy Grand Master, and the Master of our Lodge.
I want to know each of you in this way. We are Brothers and that is one thing, but can you honestly say that you would shed a tear if I passed tomorrow. Would I for you? I am not sure. The goal is not the tears that fall after a Brother passes, the goal is the Brotherhood formed while we are together. When the heart empties and the tears fall, we know a True Brother has left us. It is fortunate for us left behind that we have each other. Once again, I am reminded of our First Degree prayer Psalm 133. We live together in Unity, we work together toward a common goal, the rewards are outstanding for everyone, and we, like those Brothers that have gone before us, will continue to live in the hearts of our Brothers forever.
I wish we were all close Brothers. That we would come together to work, relax, have fun, and learn. We have this Lodge that was built by our Brothers before any of us were born. Year after year our Brothers met here as we do each month. However, they also came together in Fellowship and grew the bond of Brotherhood over time. When one passed they mourned together and took comfort in each other. When one was in need the others all helped without asking. When one celebrated, they all celebrated. I believe we can have that here at Blazing Star again. We have the sparks, we just need to let it burn.