By James C. “Chris” Williams IV – Staff Writer
I knew I was taking a chance sending him a text when I did it. John is self admittedly an electronically challenged person. In fact, he is one of the few people I have ever been around who, if every cell phone, fax machine, and computer, suddenly disappeared, he would be back on an equal level with most of the population……and a very happy man. Nevertheless, I had kind of a goofy plan….half thought out, I admit, but the half that was thought out sounded pretty good to me, partly because it was going to save me a lot of money and partly because it was going to ingratiate me with Pam. Of course, if he never saw my text and never responded, the whole plan would be a failure, but I texted him the co-ordinates anyway…..and I waited.
I figure that about now you are waiting for me to give you some explanation, so here it is. John had called a couple of days before and told me approximately when he would be in town and for me to decide on a good place to eat. It was the day he was arriving and I still hadn’t decided on where to go. I walked in the kitchen and saw that Pam was standing in front of the refrigerator shaking her head. I heard her mutter something about throwing everything away and starting over. I looked over her shoulder and realized that it was so jam packed full of leftovers that there was no place to put anything else. And, there was no way to tell what was there because everything was inside a Styrofoam or plastic container. That’s when the plan started taking shape. I went out to the garage and got the big Yeti cooler and told Pam that I was going to get rid of all the leftovers for her. She gave me a “you are crazy” look and shook her head and walked away. With my Mom’s voice in my mind telling me to not waste food because there were kids starving in other countries, I crammed that cooler completely full with every size and kind of container imaginable, and with a little ice on top, loaded it up into the truck and waited for the time for us to meet. I knew that nothing would go bad inside that Yeti that wasn’t already bad. It is my opinion that there has not yet been invented a food that John Deacon does not like. So whatever was inside that Yeti cooler should be something he would eat…….I hoped. What I didn’t think about was whether or not I would like any of it… it was one of those details I failed to think through.
What I texted John were the co-ordinates of a little spot on one of my Lodge Brother’s ranch north of San Antonio that I am quite partial to. If there is one thing John does know how to use (because he was on the road all the time) it is the navigation device that came with his truck when he bought it. The co-ordinates I gave him were to a little meadow surrounded by pretty old and large oak trees. On one side of the meadow is a creek that flows year round and on the opposite side is a sheer cliff that rises a hundred feet up from the base of the meadow. Trees and rock formations along with all kinds of other vegetation cover the cliff and I don’t think I have ever looked up at it and seen the same thing twice… and the sound of the breeze rustling the leaves on the Live Oaks and the sound of the water flowing over the rocks in the creek are about the most relaxing sounds I have ever experienced. Even better, is that right in the middle of the meadow are laid out, log benches complete with officers stations, resembling a Masonic Lodge Room. I needed to clean it up a bit for a degree that we had planned in a few weeks, and it just so happened that his needing to see me on this day and me needing to do a little maintenance on our outdoor degree site, along with needing to do something with the leftovers, all came together in a plan to take care of all three at the same time.
To my surprise and satisfaction he actually texted me back and agreed to meet where I suggested (I love it when a plan comes together). I made sure I got there in plenty of time to set up a little (although very strong) aluminum table and two oversize chairs. I had a couple of plates and some plastic-ware on the table and some condiments that I had grabbed at the last minute. I didn’t know if they were going to be needed but it seemed like the right thing to do. A gallon of tea that I drove through Bill Millers to get, rounded out what I hoped would be a satisfactory (and cheap) lunch with John. I figured if everything in the cooler was good enough for Pam, the nieces and the granddaughters to eat, it was certainly good enough for John and me…….I hoped. With everything ready, I sat down to await the arrival of Big John…..the Sultan of snacks……the Chieftain of chow…..the Lion of Lunch….the…..well ….you get the picture.
It wasn’t long that I began to hear a faint sound that got closer and louder really quick. I looked up in time to see that big black truck of his roaring across the clearing toward me at a higher rate of speed than was prudent for that place. As I was just about to run for cover, he slid to a stop in a cloud of dust. Instead of getting out of the truck he just sat there looking around. I waited for a couple of minutes and finally walked over to the driver’s door and spread my arms apart like, “what the heck are you doing”? I could see him still looking all around as he rolled his window down a fraction of an inch and said, “I must have ticked off a bunch of bees back up the road a ways and they came after me. Are they gone?” “ John,” I said trying to keep the aggravation out of my voice. “Get out of the truck. There are no bees here.” As he slid down and followed me, still looking around, I muttered just loud enough for him to hear, “They probably know you have to come back by them on the way out and are waiting for you.” I heard him say, “WHAT???” …. I ignored him but I know that got him to thinking because he kept looking back down the road every few minutes.
“Why in devil did you make me come way out here in the middle of nowhere,” he growled. “It’s probably at least forty five minutes to the nearest eating place from here.” “I needed to clean a little on our outdoor degree site, and you were in town and if you brought something for the February article, then this will all work out good and surely there won’t be any distractions. And, I brought the lunch out here,” I replied.
I opened up the tailgate of my truck and sat the tea on the table and a couple of big cups and proceeded to take all the containers one by one out of the cooler. When the last container was on the table, I handed him some utensils and told him to dig in. He hesitated and said, “This looks like just a bunch of leftovers.” I laughed and replied, “It is leftovers, and I don’t even know what’s in each of those containers. It’s a surprise.” The moment of truth was at hand as he reached for, with a frown on his face, one of the larger (go figure) containers. Inside it, to my shock, looked to me like a fully cooked T-bone steak. Then I remembered that a couple of weeks before, we had grilled some steaks for a Sunday family get together and I forgot that we hadn’t eaten all of them. John had hit the jackpot right off and reached for another which contained some kind of beans. He seemed to, at the moment, be enjoying this surprise lunch so I reached for a container for myself. I opened the lid and I would have bet my paycheck that what I was looking at could not be classified as belonging to any one of the four major food groups. I was not even sure it was meant to be eaten at all. Surely it had come from a restaurant that one of my nieces had visited. John saw me staring apprehensively at the contents and reached across the table and took it. I could tell that he didn’t know what it was either, but he sniffed it once and apparently decided it wasn’t going to kill him and took a taste. To this day I still don’t know what it was, but I do know that John liked it because he ate every bite of it. I reached for another container and got a large leftover helping of macaroni and cheese and another which had something that looked like chicken. It tasted like chicken, but it could have been anything because we all know that almost everything tastes like chicken. I saw John reach out for another big container. When he opened it he made a face and slid it back. Curious about what food John would possibly reject, I opened it to take a look. I have no idea what it was, but whatever it was contained two different items and it looked like one was eating the other. With John nodding his approval, it went right into the garbage bag I brought for our trash.
As John reached for another surprise, I asked him how he liked being out in the meadow. That got me a look of surprise and confusion as he chewed. He swallowed and said, “What kind of crazy question is that, Brother Chris? “ This is what my Dad used to call the boondocks….as in out in the middle of nowhere.” “ Well,” I said looking around. “This is one of my favorite places. It’s calm and relaxing and the sounds of the trees and the water are like soft music playing.” He rolled his eyes and grabbed another container and happily found a couple of fried chicken legs. He took a bite out of one and grunted his approval as he sat back and looked around at the countryside while I talked. I didn’t know if he had grunted his approval of the chicken legs or what I was talking about so I kept on talking, “I come out here sometimes to just sit and close my eyes and think about stuff. It is so far out of the way that you don’t have to worry about anyone or anything interrupting you.” He nodded agreement as he grabbed another container in which he found left over pot roast complete with potatoes, carrots, and some gravy, which I knew was really tasty even cold. I sure wish I had grabbed that one and he knew it by the look in my eyes as he smiled and took another big bite. I realized that I hadn’t eaten much and grabbed at one of the last containers left just as he did. I managed to slide it out from under his huge paw over to my side of the table. I cautiously peeked inside and to my surprise there were four leftover cheese enchiladas Pam had made a few days before. John herded the remaining three containers over to his side. As he opened each one, he smiled his satisfaction and had them gone in no time. There being no more food available he sat back to wait for me to finish eating.
As he sat there leaning back in his chair, he closed his eyes for a few seconds and began to see a change come over him. It was at first barely noticeable, but soon it was obvious that something had changed. He gazed at the trees and then across to the bluff on the other side. He glanced over at our outdoor makeshift Lodge room and smiled. It was a smile to no one in particular, but a reaction to what he was thinking. It was just John and his thoughts. I think he actually had totally forgotten I was there. I didn’t know what he was seeing in his mind, but I carefully, without him knowing it, pushed the “on” switch on my recorder and waited…..hoping he might put some of those thoughts into words. I didn’t have to wait long. The breeze in the trees and the soothing sounds of the water had worked their magic and made John’s thoughts turn into words and those words just came flowing out. He had been looking at the make-shift Lodge room and just began talking. “I remember the night I was made a Mason,” he said. A Brother had told me beforehand that when I was done with my first initiation, that I would go home that night a different man…….the same….but different. I wondered how the heck he knew that…but, I found out a couple of hours later that he was right. I was the same….but different. I went home that night, my big head and heart filled with something great and wonderful that I couldn’t completely explain. I had to get a little older and wiser to figure it out.” I really wanted to ask him what it was he figured out, but there was no way I was going to interrupt his thoughts. I was just glad I had thought to turn on the recorder. I saw a smile form on his face as he continued, “I remember looking up into the face of my new Brother as he shined new light into me. I was like a young child eager to receive any and all knowledge and the eagerness and desire to learn instilled in me that night….has never gone away. And, every time I have had the honor of being the one dispensing light, I have never forgotten how I felt that first night and how important it is to make sure that when I transform a good man from a Mister into a Brother, that the experience lasts a lifetime, and that his eagerness to receive light never goes away.” He was still looking at the outdoor Lodge and it seemed as if he was in some kind of trance as he continued, “The night I was raised, it became clear to me that I could never go back to being my old self. There was no old self to go back to, everything had changed, and every perception had changed. Every thought and every action would now be judged and re-judged by myself using some kind of Masonic filter for quality. Being satisfied by the status quo would never again be acceptable. The need to push for good and better and for truth would always be there.”
He paused for a few seconds and I thought he was done. As he continued to look at the outdoor Lodge room I saw his eyes get a little misty as another memory, this a sad one, made its way into his consciousness. He swallowed heavily and I had to lean a little closer to hear him as he said just above a whisper, “Being more in tune with all people and their troubles in life, especially our Brothers and families, that being part of our teachings, has made me angry at times. Death and having to deal with it was uncomfortable, but I learned a great lesson when one of my Brothers was fighting cancer. I went to visit him right after a series of tests were done and they had just wheeled his bed back into his room. He held out his hand to me and I grasped it as he lay there, and I looked into his eyes as he shook his head slightly to tell me that all hope was gone and that his time was almost over. As I stood there hurting inside for him, thinking how unfair it all was, he smiled and I could see that he wasn’t afraid or angry at all and that he was ready to make this new journey, to take his place next to his creator. He was a Freemason who had learned his lessons well and knew that his greatest glory was ahead of, and not behind him. At his memorial service I couldn’t help smiling, knowing that he was continuing his journey into the light.”
He paused to take a breath and something caught in my throat and I gasped. I don’t know if it was emotion or….. oh heck, who was I kidding…..? I know it was emotion and I just couldn’t help it, but that sound had brought him out of his thoughts and I was mad at myself for causing it. He didn’t seem to mind though, because he just smiled and lucky for me he wasn’t done yet. He said, “Brother Chris, I have been blessed to have been able to be a part of many Masonic ceremonies and honoring many worthy Brothers. I have looked into the eyes of a Brother who I was privileged to honor with a 60-year service award from our Grand Lodge. As I spoke the mandated words of praise and thanks to him for being a Mason for 60 plus years, I began to understand that giving the award was as fulfilling as receiving it. Looking into his shining eyes there was a connection to him through Masonry that I could not have imagined. For those sitting on the sidelines watching, it was a great honor for the recipient……but they had no idea of the profound feeling of pride that awarding it to him gave me, and it made me more aware and gave me a greater understanding of the length and strength of what we Masons refer to as our mystic tie.” He stopped talking all of a sudden and was gazing around him. “Wow, John,” I said. “You have really lived your Masonry.” “Brother Chris,” he whispered. It’s about more than just Masonry. Masonry is but a part of the whole. It’s about knowing and understanding. It’s about feeling and being aware of the presence. It’s about taking control by letting go.” “ Wait a minute,” I exclaimed… suddenly seeing what was in front of me the whole time. “You are talking about Him, aren’t you? You are talking about the Great Architect of the Universe. You have seen Him.” “ Yes, my Brother,” he said with a knowing smile. “I am talking about God. And yes, I have seen Him…..I have talked to Him…..or more importantly He has talked to me.” “ Tell me about Him, what does He look like,” I asked anxiously? John laughed and said, “It is not about what He looks like….it’s about who He is and what He is. He is you and He is me. He is this beautiful meadow and the trees and the water. He is everywhere and He is right here…. right now. When you let His presence and His influence take you by the hand, the result is always good.
Thank you for bringing me out here where it is so relaxing. It makes me begin to realize and understand things I hadn’t before. The Great Architect…..God…., or whatever you or anyone wants to call Him has given me many things. He has given me eyes to see what I could not before. He has taken away all fear. He has given me strength to speak when I would not or could not before. He has given me all these things and much more. Moreover, He has given or stands ready to give to you and anyone all these things and more. It was no coincidence that your leftovers, and this place came together with you and I today, and no matter who you give the credit to, it was something we both needed.”
He was right of course and I told him so. I also told him that I had recorded the whole thing and I would erase it if he wanted. He laughed and said, “I saw your recorder sitting there and figured you were getting it all. I don’t want what I said to ruffle any feathers, but it’s just not very logical that people think that God is only found in church or in a holy book. He is everywhere and in everything and I sometimes see him in my mind’s eye, looking around at what we have done with him, and to him, and because of him, and I know he’s not happy with all of it. If you want to use it, I am okay with it. I am not ashamed of it.” With that, he got up and headed to his truck. I grabbed something out of my truck and followed him. As he swung his big frame up into his truck, I handed him two slices of pecan pie that I got when I bought the tea at Bill Millers. That apparently made his day as he hauled his rotund rear end out of the truck to give me a big John Deacon bear hug, and then he was gone in a cloud of dust. I was in no hurry and sat down to enjoy my pie and in the quiet and stillness of that beautiful place broken only by the rustle of leaves and the soothing sound of water lightly slapping the rocks, I swear I could feel it…I could feel Him………….