By Curtis Shelburne
“And He Was Gathered to His People”
My wife has been collecting and displaying some old family photographs. She’s been after me for awhile now to scan a small old photograph of my maternal grandparents that has long sat on a shelf in my office. And I just did.
I knew that little framed photo has been with me for a long time, but I had forgotten just how long until I carefully pulled it out of its frame to place it on the scanner–and I noticed the handwritten inscription on the back of the picture. I recognized the distinctive hand immediately. It was Grandmother Key’s writing for sure.
To Curtis Kline, 1965. Granddaddy and Grandmother Key.
One look at that script sent me on a trip down Memory Lane. I remembered my little grandmother’s gentle but raspy voice and how she always called me “Curtis Kline.” To some of my family, I’m “C. K.” To a couple of brothers and a few friends, I’m “Curt.” And I come to “Curtis” just fine. But to Grandmother, I was always “Curtis Kline.” And as I saw that fountain-penned script, I could almost hear Grandmother saying to my mother, “This is for Curtis Kline for Christmas, and here’s one for Jimmy.” (You see, I’m pretty sure my younger brother Jim got one, too. And I’m sure his would be inscribed to “Jimmy.”)
Looking closely at that picture, I was also struck by the fact that, though I’ve always looked something like Granddaddy Key, the resemblance is increasing. The mouth. The eyes. The face. And, yes, increasingly, the white hair! I never knew his to be any other color. He had it all, thick and full, but he ran out of pigment early. It was snowy white cotton for as long as I remember.
Granddaddy ranched and trucked all of his life. He died in 1975. It was sometime in the early 80s when Grandmother followed. But they don’t seem that long gone. They’re still a big part of who I am every day.
A good many of the writers of the Old Testament, after they’ve told the story of someone’s life, say something like this: “And he was gathered to his people.” Sometimes they add, “old and full of years.”
I don’t think I’m old yet, though I guess I’m middle-aged (47) if I plan to live to be 94. I am filling up with years, but not “full” yet. I love life and am in no undue hurry. But, you know, being gathered to my people, in God’s good time, strikes me as not at all a bad thing.