On August 8, 2018, my cell phone rang. Since I didn’t recognize the number that came up on my caller ID, I assumed it was Sara telling me that there were no problems with my credit card at this time. I thought nothing more of it, but my wife decided to take a look at the number. “Honey, I think that number is for the hospital.” When the second call came through from a different number I didn’t recognize, I answered it. It was my aunt. She told me that she and my uncle had been out to dinner with my parents, and that my mother had collapsed in the restaurant parking lot. She had suffered a stroke.
I switched to auto-pilot mode when I hung up the phone, so I don’t really remember the drive to the hospital. I walked into her room at the ER center, and it was difficult to see her in her current state. My mind raced as the uncertainty of everything hung thick around us. It was a strange sensation thinking about nothing and everything all at once. My mother was one who went to exceptional lengths to try to keep herself healthy, so a stroke was the last thing to happen to her, in my mind. Just earlier that day she was vibrant, energetic and independent. Now, she lay in that hospital bed. That night, I wasn’t sure if she would make it. I wasn’t sure of anything. Thankfully, she did make it, and her recovery has been slow.
Once the shock of the events wore off, and I was able to begin to grasp the new world I suddenly lived in, I realized that responsibilities had shifted. I now had become a caregiver to one of the people who had once taken care of me. It’s nothing new or revolutionary. It’s a path that many of us must walk as we grow older. Mom went to a rehab facility after she was released from the hospital, and it had become apparent that her mobility would be severely restricted. While there was hope that she would walk again, it was required that in the interim that I needed to get ramps installed to help her get in and out of the house. I had spoken with her case worker, and she gave me a copy of the guidelines for building handicap-accessible ramps. I, however, am not the greatest builder, so I asked one of my Lodge Brothers to take a trip to my parents’ house and hopefully give me some advice on where to start.
“What’s your Mom’s address?” He said he could go up that afternoon and take a look, since I was working late that day. I gave it to him, and he told me he’d be in touch. When he called me back late that afternoon, he was on speaker phone and I could tell he had others in the car with him. I asked who was in the car. “I needed a second opinion on how to proceed”, the Brother told me. “We’re going to do some research, and I’ll call you back.”
A couple of days went by, then my phone rang. “We’ve got it figured out. All of the supplies have been ordered, and we should be able to get those ramps installed in a few days.”
“Hold up”, I said. “I just wanted you to look at the project. What do you mean you’ve ordered all the supplies?”
“It’s cheaper right now to order aluminum ramps than to build them with wood the way your parents’ house is designed. They’ll be here in a couple of days, and then we can install them.”
“Well…okay. How much were the supplies?”
“Don’t worry about it. We’ve got it covered.”
I quickly said, “I can’t ask you to do that, Brother!”
“You didn’t.” he replied. “But, we did it anyway.”
I was stunned. These four Brothers had decided to take it upon themselves to get my parents’ house wheelchair accessible. I objected to these guys taking on the financial burden of this project, but this particular Brother in question has a head of granite, so my argument proved futile. I relented, solely on the caveat that I was to be informed of when they planned to go and install the ramps, so I could at least lend a hand. I mostly stood there and watched in awe as these Brothers worked like a team that had been together for years, drilling concrete and cutting pipe for handrails. I was at least able to make a trip for material, and pick up some food from the burger joint up the street. In a couple of hours, the installation was complete. It has always been told to me to “never look a gift horse in the mouth”, but I can tell you that day I was handed a thoroughbred. I couldn’t have found a contractor to do a better job. When my Mom was finally able to come home, she was happy with the work, too, and the ramps have become indispensable.
Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. These are the core principles that make up the foundation of Freemasonry. How many of us really try to live by these principles? I know that I fall woefully short on most days, but these men didn’t. They saw a need, and they filled it. Freemasons are excellent fundraisers, but this need was more than just financial. Two of the Brothers in question were Worshipful Masters of my Lodge the year before and after my year, so I am sure they have become familiar with my “overwhelmed” face. They helped shoulder my load, and I will forever be grateful. They are shining examples of the Masonic Ideal who performed a kindness for a friend and a Brother. It seems trite to say we should all endeavor to follow these Brothers’ example, but it’s true. We should.