Since I first started publishing these Dedicated Members for Change (DMC) articles in 2010, I have touted the future of successful Odd Fellows Lodges to be akin to a three-legged stool. All three legs are important to remain upright; if even one leg is weak or missing, the stool will wobble and ultimately collapse. What do the three legs of the stool represent? One leg represents the rich history and tapestry of Odd Fellowship – friendship, love and truth – which make us unique among fraternal orders. The second leg represents outreach and involvement in the greater community outside the walls of our Lodge Halls. The third leg represents a Lodge that is comfortable, fun and enjoyable for the members. After all, who wants to be a member of a do-nothing, boring Lodge? Each leg is important to success.
In today’s DMC Newsletter, I am delighted to introduce you to a relatively new and relatively young member of our fraternal order: Mason Wolf, who currently serves as Noble Grand of the True Fellowship Lodge in San Jose. Mason is a software engineer, is 43 years old and has been a member of Odd Fellowship since 2019. His wife, Debbie Wolf, joined the Rebekahs a few years before joining Odd Fellows, and is now the Vice Grand of the True Fellowship Lodge. They represent the next generation, and the future of our Order. But there is also a link to the past. Mason’s grandfather is Richard Brouse, a respected member of our Order who spent his final years at the Meadows of Napa Valley, and who very recently passed away. Among Richard’s many accomplishments was the continuation of the Cave Degree, a unique way to obtain the degrees of an Odd Fellows Lodge, including the Second Degree conferred in a cave near Yreka by moonlight shining over Mt. Shasta. The Cave Degree was paused during Covid and because of the need for significant repairs and maintenance of the cave. Grand Master Fred Dolling is committed to bringing back the Cave Degree, a singular and memorable experience for any Odd Fellow. And Mason is committed to this project as well.
While it is important to the future of our Order that we continue to evolve, we must also continue to respect the traditions of our fraternity that make use Odd Fellows. I hope you enjoy Mason’s submission, below.
F – L – T
Past Grand Master
Independent Order of Odd Fellows
Jurisdiction of California
The Final Degree of Odd Fellowship
“In a little while, the ever-burning furnace of time will consume to ashes all that hath life and vigor in this terrestrial sphere.” — from the Independent Order of Odd Fellows funeral ceremony
Odd Fellowship, as we know, is premised on three principles – friendship, love, and truth. These are the links that bind members together in a fraternity that’s lasted centuries. But these principles are hardly mentioned when we initiate new members. Instead, our first and most important lesson is that everything we are in this life is but a passing moment. We become Odd Fellows by being reminded of our end, something that is almost heretical in our culture that hides death away and does everything possible to pretend that it doesn’t exist.
“Often have we been reminded in the solemn ceremonies of our order, of the great truth that all that is born must die.”
We don’t ignore death. Awareness of our own mortality is harnessed with deliberate intent, that we maximize our time in this world, doing good that will hopefully outlast us. And when death comes, we have a degree for that.
The funeral ceremony is incredibly simple, requiring just a noble grand and a chaplain. But it is so powerful, and so beautiful. It calls back the lessons of the initiatory degree, and adds one more lesson -the hope of immortality, the faith that we shall one day see our beloved bothers and sisters again.
Euphemistically referred to as “the last degree”, it was written in the style of one of our degree ceremonies. It has no sign or password, but it does have a memento, the evergreen branch, which reminds us that the virtues of our departed brother or sister will remain ever green in our memories.
Recently, I had the honor and the burden to perform the funeral ceremony, together with my Aunt Debra Lavergne, to mourn the passing of my grandfather, Richard Brouse. It was a sober reminder that our Order is more than a community service organization, a social club, or secret society – though it has aspects of all of these. The people we see at lodge are a chosen family who have made a commitment to work alongside us in life, mourn us in death, and honor our memory into the years ahead.
“No more will he labor with us, yet the results of his labors will continue through years that are to come.”
Yes, we have fun with our “odd” little club, and that’s a good thing. But let us never forget that we have a final degree ahead of us. Life and death are serious matters, so we treat them as such. And personally, I am convinced that my grandfather’s life was so much fuller and more blessed for that awareness he had, that he would one day leave this “terrestrial sphere”. For my part, I will honor his memory while carrying that same awareness as a motivation to do as much good as I can in the brief time that I have left.
I’ll conclude by sharing a poem that recently came across my desk, through an odd turn of events that still strikes me as too strange for mere coincidence. I shared this poem at my grandfather’s funeral, and before that, I read it to him a week before he passed away, the last time I saw him in life.
Odd Fellow Poem
A brother lived in an Odd Fellow Home.
He was feeble and old and gray,
With tottering limbs and low bowed head
Just at the close of the day.
And there by a row of evergreen trees,
An angel from heaven flew down,
He looked the old man direct in the eyes,
An angel with a flowing gown.
The old man peered at the heavenly form
And asked, “Are you looking for me?”
“For you, my brother,” the angel replied,
“It is time for the last degree.
“You have passed through the wilderness of life,
And you’ve traveled its treacherous sand,
But I’ll conduct you to a Lodge of Love,
And the greatest of all Noble Grand.”
The old man said, “My teeth are gone.
My eyes are dim and dried.
My feeble old hand is wrinkled now,
Though still is open wide.
“And the weight of the years is on my brow,
My hearing is nearly gone.
My memory, too, is fading fast,
And the race of life is nearly run.
“But I am filled with a longing to see again
My brothers up there with the blest.
My weary old head is bowed with years
And I’m ready to go to my rest.
“Conductor, I’m ready to enter the hall
And I hope they’ll not reject me.
Please carry the word to our great Noble Grand,
I’m ready for my last degree.”
– Harry Bonde
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