My grandfather passed away when I was very young and his is one of the first funerals I can recall going to. I remember going to the funeral home and wasn’t sure what to expect, except that there would be a lot of emotion there. My grandmother was calmly talking and being practical, at 94 I am sure she has seen her share of funerals. Grandpa’s casket was very ornate and there was a good reason for that. Well, a couple good reasons.
Years before, my grandfather had buried a friend and I happen to be at his house when he returned from the funeral, which took place in a very rural area in Michigan. I never saw my grandpa crying before, but the source of his tears were not coming from where you’d expect. According to my grandfather his friend was buried in a plain pine box, just four sides and a top and bottom looking very much like something you’d ship a lamp in. My grandfather couldn’t speak, I remember my grandmother cradling him and the only words he said at the time were, “don’t bury me like that.” He could barely get them out.
This is one of the things I think about when I walk among the stones. Who had big funerals, and who had no one.
Grandpa’s was big. Not as big as my dad’s (more on that in a future article) but he was well-known and well-loved. His life was long and interesting and in later years was fire chief and then mayor of his sleepy little town. I am sure more people would have come if he simply hadn’t outlived them all.
One thing really surprised me. He was adorned with jewelry. I mean, he looked like king. There was a ring on each finger, necklaces were placed around his neck, big ones. There were ribbons and medallions, for one thing I had always know about my grandfather but never really thought about was that he was a Mason. A high-ranking one.
We drove to the cemetery and his body was placed in a temple and we were all asked to leave. I lingered behind and looked through the stain glass windows at what I could only presume was a Mason ceremony. Men wearing jewelry opened the casket and they moved around and said things I couldn’t hear. His casket was closed and they filed out.
Not being a Mason I never found out what their burial traditions are although I’m sure in this day and age it can be Googled but I want to maintain that sense of wonder I felt watching what seemed to be a mystic ceremony. Now days, while walking in the cities of the dead I can see many Masonic symbols and these men and women I at least know were taken care of when they passed away.
My grandfather, who in spite of his wealth of friends and family died a humble man, and we gave him a humble marker. Symbols of the Mason and the Order of the Eastern Star can be seen between the years of their lives. (You can click for a larger version.)
The letter G in the Masonic emblem is a reminder that we are all created by the Great Architect of the Universe.
Wives of Masons usually belong to the Order of the Eastern Star. No, FATAL isn’t how they died, it stands for Fairest Among Thousands, Altogether Lovely.
I found this statue near Des Moines in a cemetery that was full of Masons. It depicts Masons holding the weight of the world.
You can see the men holding traditional tools and symbols of the Masons.
The inscription reads, “Every one of these short lives leave its sure record of some kindly thing done for others.”
Pillars and unfinished temples also symbolize that a Mason was buried there. A broken temple is a Mason whose life was cut short.
High level Masons can become a member of the Knights Templar and/or Shriners, their scimitar, crescent, and star is easy to spot. The center is the symbol for the Knights Templar which includes the latin phrase “In Hoc Signo Vinces,” which translates to “In This Sign, Conquer.” Occasionally you will only see the crown and cross for a Knights Templar.
A two headed eagle is the symbol for a 32nd degree Mason of the Scottish rite.
Remember, these are but a sample, but one thing I’ve learned, just about everything on a stone is a symbol for something.