Today I had the occasion to attend Masonic funeral rites. My wife's godfather died last week and today was the day of cremation. It turns out he was a member of that brotherhood.
Perhaps I shouldn't say "attended" so much as "glimpsed." Not being a member of the family, I lingered outside, listening to the address and peeking in from time to time. Just as well, I suppose, because for the entirety of the half-hour service they were standing.
The Masons were all middle-aged men, sombre and dour-looking (but I suppose that's because it was a funeral, after all), but otherwise respectable. They all wore simple but elegant white barongs and black pants. Around their right arms they wore a black band. And, as I found out when they stepped out of the chapel, they wore small white aprons around their waists.
My wife told me that the master of the lodge explained that the apron was their highest symbol, signifying work and the roots of their profession. The master further explained (and I heard part of this while I was outside) that what they were holding was not a religious ceremony but a remembrance of the person who had passed.
Near the end of the service, the Masons lined up to view their deceased brother one last time. As each went up to the casket, they laid a flower over the body, then gestured up to the ceiling with their right arm. Only after all the Masons had had their turn did the rest of the mourners, the family included, go up to pay their last respects.
Throughout the service, not a song was sung.