An even better, more detailed way to honor dad's memory.
| I wrote the following piece in late 2000, when I was in charge of the monthly bulletin for the Masonic Lodge Linda's dad George Hart and I were members of. I'd been wanting to say something publicly for some time, and this particular month I had some extra space left in the bulletin, so I did what I felt I needed to do to give George and the rest of the family the recognition I felt they deserved. Below is that piece. Remember that it was written in 2000.
Not Just A Good Mason; A Special Father and A Special Family
This is a public THANK YOU! to the man that not only introduced me to the meaning, language and beauty of Freemasonry, but also, most willingly and without the slightest hesitation, took on the role of my father through the most critical, and what would become the most wonderful years of my life (17-31): Worshipful Brother George D. Hart.
It is also a public THANK YOU! to his wife, Virginia and youngest daughter, Marcia, for the wonderful love and unquestioned support I received from them as well through those critical years of my life.
The reasons for this will be hard to convey in a short space, but I must try.
On Tuesday night, March 8th, 1966 I met another of the Harts’ daughters, Linda. While it was virtually “love at first sight”, it took us four weeks to confess our love for each other, at 17.
A week before my senior prom that year, Linda found the courage to tell me she was an epileptic. I gently but firmly told her I loved her too much for me to let it make a difference in our relationship. I wanted her to know I was serious in my feelings, both about my love for her and about the epilepsy not changing that fact. So, the following week, just after school on the day of the prom, I asked her to marry me.
When I started college that fall I was forbidden, by my parents, to see her till I finished college. (The legal age in Ohio then was 21, not 18.) Finally, I dropped out of college, got a job and moved out on my own, leaving my family behind. Their actions forced me to choose; and to me, there was no choice.
From the time she’d told her parents that I still loved her in spite of the epilepsy, the Harts were totally supportive of our relationship. My decision to accept the epilepsy rather than give her up had told them my love for her was genuine. But not until I got out on my own did I fully realize how supportive they intended to be. I immediately became the son they, especially George, had never had. And I had a father I could not only talk to, but actually relate to, and, most importantly, confide in, through the most formative years of my life. I ate with them often. They insisted, and it was great for my meager budget. Since I was already considered one of the family, holiday times were spent with them, too. And when it came time for Linda’s senior prom in 1967, dad (George) handed me the keys to their Olds. After all – an 18-year-old, still-underage kid didn’t have a car of his own.
A year later, having seen almost nothing of my own family since moving out, Linda and I eloped to Kentucky. I called my parents after the wedding and told them. All my mom said was, “Well, you just remember; I don’t want her in this house.” That was fine by me. I wasn’t planning on going back there anyway.
Linda joined the Eastern Star in 1974. One discussion led to another, and I asked dad (George) for a petition to Harry K. Eversull Lodge #754 in early 1978. I was 29. I had the best teacher around to help me prepare for those oral degree exams!
June, 1978 brought my Master Mason night. I didn’t know dad was sitting in the East. Until he raised me. The look in his eyes just after he pulled me to my feet I will never forget. It had the love of a father for his son written all over it. And by the time he'd finished conferring that degree on me we were both close to tears.
On Monday evening, March 3, 1980, Linda had a seizure in our bathroom and hit her head on the tile wall. She died instantly. I got home later that night and found her. Later, after the police and coroner’s people had left, I called dad. I felt he, and the rest of her family, should be the first to know. It was almost 1:00 A.M. Yet, when we finished the conversation and I apologized for the lateness of the call, he said warmly, “No, Jim, that’s alright. This is the way it should be.”
The days that followed showed again why they are a special family. Mom, Virginia, fed an extra mouth all week without complaint. Dad helped me make the funeral arrangements. That had to be a tough one for him. But he stood by me all the way. And Marcia took Linda’s clothes to the funeral home for me. There is no way I could have made it through that week without the help and support I received from all 3 of them.
I served as Master of the lodge in 1986. When I became a Past Master after the Installation of [new] Officers that December, I got the most wonderful surprise of my Masonic life. The new Master stated that Worshipful Brother George would present me with my Past Master’s Jewel. With what our relationship as father and son had become since we’d met 20 years before, we were both in tears by the time he’d finished presenting it to me and I’d accepted it. What made the moment so unbelievably special was that it was not a new Past Master's Jewel, as most Past Masters would receive; it was his jewel. He’d had my name engraved beneath his and had passed his own jewel down to his son. Other than my years with Linda, that was the most wonderful moment of my life.
It was a most wonderful and fulfilling feeling to place that beautiful jewel on my breast pocket for our Inspection earlier this year after taking a number of years off. All the warmth, love and pride I felt that night dad passed his jewel into my hands came rushing back through my mind and my body. And I know Linda was smiling down upon me, feeling that warmth, love and pride right along with me. This was the first time I’d worn the jewel since he gave it to me that night in December, 1986. On my hand that inspection night I also wore dad’s original blue lodge ring. Well worn now, I cherish it as much as that jewel, even though it has no color left and the emblem is slowly fading.
I wore them both again this past June 21st for the reconsecration of our lodge during our 75th year. And, just as I suspected, that same warmth, love and pride swelled within me again. I remember it all. The pride he felt when I asked him for that petition in 1978. The joy in his voice when he called me and told me I’d been accepted as a candidate. The hours we spent working on each of my long-form exam preparations. The tears he shed as he raised me. All the fun we shared in lodge. His loving critique of my ritual work; I’d asked him to help me get it letter perfect and he took me at my word – thanks, dad! Every detail. The night he gave me his blue lodge ring. Right up to the night he passed to me that beautiful jewel and the tears we both shed. And the standing ovation we’d gotten from those in attendance after he gave it to me. Thinking of these things as I type this I find myself in tears once again.
If qualifications for the 33rd Degree were based on Family and Humanitarian standards, one recipient would have to be my father, Worshipful Brother George D. Hart.
Thanks dad, from the bottom of my heart, for stepping up and being my father starting when I was 17, when dads are needed the most. To this day you are, and always will be, my father. And thanks to all of you: George, Virginia and Marcia, for making me a welcome member of your family. That means so much more since I had to leave mine behind to be with the one who is still, today, the true love of my life. I do not regret that decision for any reason. Never have, and never will. Linda, and the three of you have made my life far more meaningful, loving, and rewarding than it ever would have been without you. You taught me how to love, what love is about, and not to be afraid to show that love or share it with others.
Though one of them is not what it seems, please forgive me for the errors I made along the way. They haunt me to this day and I pray about them daily seeking to make up for them. My love for each and every one of you has only grown with the passage of time. From the moment I went out on my own at 18 you have been my only real family, and you will be my only real family for the rest of my life. I love you.
Jim Williamson, Past Master, Harry K. Eversull Lodge #754, F. & A.M.
The Past Master's Jewel dad passed down to me in 1986. If you look closely you can make out both our names. Dad's at the very top crossbar, mine on the one below it. (Sorry it isn't hanging straight - I had problems getting it to lay straight on the scanner)
(An update. As of Thanksgiving Day, 2014, all of them, including Linda, are together once again, with our Lord. George passed first, then Virginia, and on that Thanksgiving Day in 2014, Marcia joined them. Father, I thank You and praise You for bringing this wonderful, loving and caring family into my life. My life has been far richer, more meaningful, and far more loving because they were in it. I thank You and praise You, too, for those 14 wonderful, rewarding, and love-filled years You gave Linda and I together. I am sincerely looking forward to rejoining my family, and being with You when my time comes. In Jesus' name, Amen.)