Almost three years ago, my family lost a dear friend of ours. He was quite a character, to say the least. I knew a little bit about the group he was involved with, but have only learned more since he left us. Jerry Wayne Skelton was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) The historic mission of this fraternity is to “improve and elevate the character of man.” The current mission is based on this phrase, but goes quite deeper than that currently. As mentioned on their website, “Today, Odd Fellows and Rebekahs continue to exist with nearly 10,000 lodges in approximately 26 countries consisting of men and women who united together for mutual aid and conviviality, providing social and practical support for each other and their communities in every way possible.” They go on to say:
“We are the family of Oddfellowship, composed of Men, Women, and Youth, believing in a supreme being, the creator and preserver of the universe, who have come together in our local communities having the same beliefs and values as others, that; Friendship, Love and Truth are the basic guidelines that we need to follow in our daily lives. Through working in our local Communities, States, Provinces, or Nationally we understand that we can make a difference in the lives of people in our World”
There is an incredible amount of additional information that can be found on their website. Independent Order of Odd Fellows
We attended his funeral and burial and, I must say, it was one of the most beautiful and eloquent services I have ever attended. Members of his lodge were in their full regalia and stood proudly in front of the crowd. The Noble Grand and Chaplain gave the service. The words that the Noble Grand spoke were quite lengthy, but I could tell that they were typical of their services and that he had them committed to memory. He spoke with strength and gentility. He took his time; we were truly able to experience the life of our friend through his words.
After the service was over, I felt compelled to seek out the words that had been spoken of our friend. I did not know the Noble Grand, Tyler Plegder, so I emailed the IOOF and requested the info. Immediately, I heard back from him and he said he would send me the information. Time passed and I never heard from him. I hesitated writing again as I did not want to bother him. As fate would have it, I got an email from this man’s mother this week (two and a half years later). She indicated that I had made the request some time ago and that she wanted to make sure I got the information. I was so happy to receive the email the words he had spoken.
I would like to share those words with you. Beautiful language such as this rarely spoken these days. The service proceeded as follows:
Noble Grand: My Brothers, we have assembled to perform the last service the living can render to the departed: to pay respect to one to whom we were bound by the claims of sincere friendship, unfeigned love, and simple truth, one who was born as we were born, who lived as we now live, and for many days enjoyed his possessions, his power and his friendships. When we lay to rest his earthly remains, with its imperfections, we will cherish a lively recollection of his virtues.
Chaplain: Let us pray, Our Father, in this hour of sorrow, we turn to Thee for help. Though gavest life, Thou has received it unto thyself again. May of the lesson of this hour sink deep into our hearts and purify them. May friendship and love take new meaning in our lives, and may Thy truth guide us in righteousness to Thee. Comfort all whose hearts have been made lonely at this hour. Assure them of They presence, and in their sorrow, teach them to know that Thou hast received the spirit of their loved one to Thyself again. Amen.
Noble Grand: Often we have been reminded in the solemn ceremonies of our Order of the great truth that all that is born must die. How cheerless the home of the dead when unrelieved by the prospect of immortal life! But hope remains over man’s last resting place like an arch bright with mortality, which based upon earth, extends far into the sacred realms of eternity.
When the hour of death comes, it is faith in this immortality that brings consolation. Though we part, never to meet on earth, yet so we feel that somewhere, somehow, we shall rejoin our brothers. We look forward to a time when, with clearer vision, we shall know them in forms that never fade, in states that never change.
Today, we are in the full realization of health and enjoyment of the pleasures of this world. In a little while, the ever burning furnace of time will consume to ashes all that have life and vigor in this terrestrial sphere.
Once, but surely once, will come to everyone the call that takes a soul from earth. We bow in love and in humility to the will of God. The Chaplain will now present a lesson from the storehouse from which all our principles are derived.
Chapalin: Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or even Though hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting. Thou are God.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate both day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Noble Grand: His life span has ended. The light of his eyes has gone out; and his lips are forever silent. His toils and labors are done. The burning taper of his life has been extinguished and he has crossed over the silent river of his death.
My brothers, you are aware of his contribution to our beloved Order. No longer will his counsel be heard within our lodges, yet his wisdom will continue to aid us in our work. No more will he labor with us; yet the results of his labors will continue through the years that are to come.
His work among us is done, yet his influence will live to direct our actions for the good of our Order. We will miss him from our midst, but we will ever remember our association with him, and we will keep ever in mind the obligations that we owe to those who were near and dear to him.
As a token that the virtues of our brother will forever dwell in our memories we deposit this evergreen upon his casket. Farewell, Brother, until we meet thee in the Eternal Home.
At this point, the information of Jerry’s membership was given. I do not have all the details. Grand Noble, J. W. Skelton, Lodge #3 in [Chattooga County, GA].
Noble Grand: The mortal remains of our brother will be laid to rest within God’s earth from whence he came.
Chaplain: Let us pray, Almighty and Supreme Ruler of heaven and Earth, look down, we pray Thee, with compassion upon this scene; give peace and comfort to these bereaved and give us the strength to live the obligations that we owe to them. bless our beloved order here and everywhere. May Friendship, Love, and Truth be not unmeaning words upon our lips, but the sentiment of our hearts and the practice of our lives. May we live Thy law that commands us to do unto others as we would that they should do unto us, and, after a life well spent on earth, we shall pass through the valley of the shadow of death and cross the silent river to join our loved ones gone before. May we meet Thee Our Father, and hear the welcome plaudit. “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of Thy Lord.”
God of the Universe, while we entrust the holy spirit of our departed brother to Thy Holy care, may the record of his virtues be inscribed upon our hearts and his memory cherished forever. And we further pray in the words of Thy servant of old: “The Lord bless us and keep us. The Lord make his face to shine upon us and be gracious unto us evermore.” Amen.
I felt honored to be a part of this service and the life of my friend; both were gifts to behold.