Sometimes we all need a little perspective

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Local religious columnist

My two-years-younger brother Jim wrote an interesting column for his church newsletter the other day. He had some great things to say, but what really made the article interesting is where he was when he wrote it.

The boy has always marched to a bit of a different drummer. When our mother gave us the choice of painting our respective rooms whatever color we wished, I chose light blue; Jim chose purple. I won’t shame the family by telling you how old he was when he put aside his baby bottle. And even now, though we’re both perversely proud, snobs in reverse, of the old battered pickups we drive, I think the Der Wienerschnitzel hot dog on his radio antennae is a tad weird (which means that I’m jealous because I can’t find one for mine.)

So I really wasn’t all that surprised to learn that his latest church newsletter column was written from his grave.

Yes, you read right.

Well, actually, you might substitute the words “cemetery plot” for “grave.” You see, Jim was spending a little “study retreat” time down at our Grandmother and Granddaddy Key’s old place at Robert Lee, Texas. Eight miles outside of Robert Lee is what remains (and that’s not much) of the old Edith Community. And there at Edith is the old cemetery for which our great-grandfather donated part of the land. Within sight of the cemetery are the ruins of the old house where our mother was born. And in that cemetery are the graves of several generations of our Key and Shropshire ancestors-and the graves of our parents. Adjacent to Mom and Dad’s graves is a little curbed off section for family folks like, well, Jim and his and me and mine.

The last time Jim and I were there the bluebonnets were blanketing that whole cemetery. We traveled across a good bit of Texas that week, and we never saw bluebonnets more lush and beautiful than right there at the Paint Creek Cemetery.

So when Jim was there by himself recently, he drove out to the old cemetery, unfolded his new Wal-Mart Texas-flag-in-a-bag chair, plopped it onto the top of his plot, and wrote his newsletter column right there on the above-ground side of the land his bones will one day inhabit six feet under. He says that it’s paid for and he might as well get the use of it while he can enjoy it. I’m a little concerned because I figure he may have been characteristically poaching on my side of the plot since they’re not specifically marked. Oh, well.

That kind of writing, particularly within a stone’s throw of generations of your family’s earthly remains, kind of puts life in perspective.

As Jim writes, “This cemetery, the flowers, the birds, and even the buzzards and jackrabbits, remind me of one part of an even bigger picture. This is the only today I’ll ever get. This very moment, for you and for me, will never be exactly replicated. It’s unique. It’s rarified. It’s precious. . . . Don’t miss the gift of life and the joy of living today. After all, you’ll have forever to enjoy heaven!”

Well said, Bro. Now, stay on your own side of the plot!