From the Grand Master - November, 2020
My great uncle, Pte. Robert Franklin Gordon Cameron, died in the Great War and my father was given one of his names in remembrance. The story I recall being told that he was killed just after Armistice Day, a very sad circumstance. But years later, while researching my family history, I found the letter from his C.O. along with a hand-written account by one of his comrades. He had died the end of August, but it was this letter that my family had received in November. The description of his death was gruesome.
As a teen I belonged to the Youth Group at our church. We almost never did anything religious,but we got together for activities. Sometimes I liken it to Masonry. Just the act of hanging out with people of a like mind helps to shore up your own principles. We would regularly go to Westminster Veterans’ Hospital to play bingo with the men there. The Four Counties wing was a series of rambling, one story buildings which provided assisted living. There we encountered men who had lost limbs, or were blind, or, it seemed to us,
were just old. But not all their wounds were visible. Their sacrifice but didn’t really hit home. However, driving in and out we had to pass by the multiple
story psychiatric building, much larger than the Four Counties wing. We never went in there, but Eric Bogle’s song always brings a chill to me, especially the third line. That building was so big.
In those days they called it “shell shock” but now we say Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. This condition is not limited to soldiers. Health
care and other front line workers are also prone to it. Those nurses and caregivers who are having to deal with multiple COVID deaths come to mind.
Indeed anyone who encounters trauma – abused women, accident victims, police officers – can be affected. And, although to a lesser extent, the
isolation of the lockdown can also disrupt one’s mental health. But help is available. The sad thing is that we, as men, tend to not ask for that help.
It’s okay to not be okay. Please ask for help if you need it.
November 11 is coming up soon. This year is the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Anniversaries are important. They bring things into focus. Two years ago on the centenary of his death. I made a point of attending the Cenotaph ceremony in Brussels, where Uncle Gordon’s name is inscribed. I felt it important to be there. Past Grand Chaplain, R.W. Bro. William M. White,
once said that one of the most important things we do as Masons is to be there. When a brother is feeling low, we are there for him. When a widow is
grieving, we are there. We hold a Masonic Memorial Service and large numbers of brothers show up, just to “be there” for the family.
This year we cannot hold Memorial Services because the risk of transmission in small confined areas is too great. (Think not only of the funeral chapel but also of the regalia room and the hallways.) The last thing we want to do is transmit the virus to the grieving family. So we will hold our memorials later.
In a similar vein, participation at a Cenotaph ceremony, even though outside, is not risk free. Therefore The Royal Canadian Legion’s National
Remembrance Day Ceremony in Ottawa will have very limited attendees, no parade and the wreaths will be pre-placed. However, we can participate
virtually and I urge you to do so.
Please stay safe, keep others safe, and
David J. Cameron