Alice's brother Bobby passed away in Texas in November just before Thanksgiving Day, and we were finally able to settle his estate a couple of weeks ago. It was a complete shock to us, but he and his wife Karen who preceded him in death in August lived a somewhat hermit-like life in recent years. They both died without a will, and so we had to deal with probate court and other messes via long distance before we were able to do anything with his property.
We had to drive back to Texas a few weeks ago once we were at last permitted by the court to dispose of their belongings. It's a gruesome task for anyone to pick though literally everything in someone else's home. Clearing out their house, we had to separate all of the collected clutter and detritus of everyday life from the things that meant something, and bring home all of their important papers and anything of sentimental value. Buried in the piles I discovered the funeral guestbook from the service from Bobby and Alice's father, Robert L. Funcannon, Sr. back in 1998 in Garland, Texas. I hadn't seen it before. It was at that service that Bobby, Alice, and I witnessed the first Masonic funeral service any of us had ever seen. Those ten Masons, their ceremony, and their kindness to us all influenced both Bobby and I to become Freemasons ourselves.
I have recounted the story of that day probably hundreds of times all over the country and the world for the last 18 years, and in Freemasons For Dummies as well. Of how I called every Dallas area lodge on a Sunday night before the Monday funeral to ask if anyone could perform a service; how a lodge Secretary working late that night said he'd do what he could to help; how ten Masons showed up the next day who didn't know Robert but nevertheless put on a service far more moving than anything the rented minister said who kept mispronouncing his name; and how on the flight home the next day I told Alice I had to become one of them. Until this evening, I had never known just who those Brethren were all those years ago. But now I do.
So, I am proud and honored to finally properly thank in public the Brethren of James Ladd Burgess Lodge No. 1305 in Dallas, Texas, and Past Master Guadalupe Moreno of Duck Creek Lodge No. 1419 in Garland. Sadly, it appears from my Internet search that WB Moreno himself passed away in 2005, just before my book was published, so he had no way of knowing the lives he and his Brethren touched that day, and how many other men the story of that brief event might go on to influence to knock on a lodge door somewhere in the world.
As Masons, we may never know the lives we touch in countless ways we may never give a second thought to. But that's why we all need to make sure we answer every phone call, every email, every question from a curious elevator companion or stranger at the next gas pump who asks about our jacket emblem or ring or Masonic license plate.
I have up at the top of this blog one of the first admonitions each of us receives: "To preserve the reputation of the fraternity unsullied must be your constant care..." That's our job - yours and mine - every day. And those Texas Brethren certainly went above and beyond to do that for our little family 17 years ago.
Thank you, my Brothers. You changed my life. I hope that, in some small way since then, I have honorably paid forward that debt I have owed each of you for a long time.