I don’t even how to tag or categorize this post, much less give it a title. I am sitting at my desk overwhelmed by the grace and power of beautiful a soul with whom I just spoke on the phone. Next Saturday I’m going to DC to hug her, at her husband’s funeral.
Some of you who are locals may have seen the recent story about Cecil Mills, a DC man who died after collapsing across the street from a DC Firehouse. The firefighters at the firehouse seem to have refused to give help and aid. The story is fresh, tragic and on-going. Without leaping to vilify anyone or falsely accuse, let’s just recognize that something went horribly wrong that day at the firehouse. Aid should have been given. In the news footage you can see the “Safe Place” sign on the firehouse. It should have been the perfect place to run to for help when Cecil Mills collapsed.
As I watched he story and the news footage I noticed images of Cecil Mills proudly wearing his Shiners fez. He was a Freemason, as am I. I am a Mason in Maryland under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Maryland. I’ve not been Mason for very long, just a little over two years, but I felt the pull to make sure the family of my brother Mason was being cared for and helped in every way possible. He was a DC Mason and I’m a Maryland Mason, but that doesn’t matter… a Mason is a Mason. I made a call to the bigger Shrine Temple in DC to make sure that someone was looking into things. In case you don’t know, the Shriners (known for their Children’s Hospitals) are Masons. Not every Mason is a Shriner (I’m not), but every Shriner is a Mason.
I also did a quick internet search for Cecil’s daughter, mentioned in the news stories as Marie Mills. I had already found the church and called them to get the time and date for Cecil’s funeral, which I considered attending, but I was compelled to find out if he was still active with his home lodge and if they had been given the chance to support his family. We Masons take care of our brothers and their families in tough times. With a big knot of nervousness in my stomach, I dialed the number I had found for the daughter, Marie Mills.
The Marie Mills who answered the phone was not his daughter, but his widow. As I introduced myself as a local, fellow Mason who saw the news and wanted to reach out to the family, I felt like she became my newest best friend. Her grace and peace reached over the phone lines and held me. and We chatted about his enthusiasm and joy in being a Mason, and the joy he had in being a pastor’s son whose son was now a pastor. We spoke of their 54 years of marriage and the hopes she had had of many more. We spoke of the gracious friends and supporters who have reached out to her family.
Yes, Cecil had remained active in his local Masonic Lodge and yes they had been to the house in support of his family and widow. Yes, the funeral is planned for next Saturday at 11:30am, at the church his father established. Yes, I will be there and I will deliver a big hug to Marie. She said, “If you’re not here, I’m going to come up to Bethesda! I use a walking cane, but I can whip with it, too!”
I’m not sure what this blog post is about except to share the incredible mercy of being allowed to speak with Marie Mills, today. I know it’s scandalous for some of you to think of me being a Mason, and there’s propaganda and scary stuff out there to justify your concern, but it’s simply not accurate. Next time someone says, “I wonder what those Masons are up to?” you can tell them we’re funding hospitals, encouraging one another, meeting in lodge buildings around the world, supporting local charities, checking in on our widows, and sometimes wearing funny hats. That’s pretty muchly it.
As for me, I can’t wait to meet Marie next Saturday and pay my respects for Cecil. I’m sure that any husband of Marie’s for 54 years is well deserving of my respect. From my time talking to Marie I would say that Cecil’s death is a little bit of light going out of the world. I’m so glad hers is still shining and so graciously shared.