By Curtis K. Shelburne
I ran into Frank Ellis at Leal’s the other day.
Oops. For those who live outside the greater Muleplex (Muleshoe), I’ll translate.
I ran into Frank Ellis, longtime owner and patriarch of Ellis Funeral Home, at Leal’s restaurant as we were both about to munch some great Mexican food.
It was good to see Frank. I hadn’t seen him in awhile, and I guess he was struck by the same thing because his greeting went something like this: “Well, hello, Curtis! How are you? It’s been so long since I’ve seen you. I was afraid you’d died and used another funeral home!”
We both laughed a good laugh. I thought by this time I’d already heard most of Frank’s best lines, but not so!
I actually take a good bit of comfort in the fact that when the time comes to plant what’s left of my carcass, the folks who’ll almost certainly be in charge of the job are the kind of folks I like to drink coffee with. I like them enough that I may even forgive them for stuffing my earthly remains into a suit. I plan to be in a better place anyway. (I mean heaven, of course. And don’t tell Frank, but I’m also sort of leaning toward cremation, not that I’ll care much when the time comes.)
Talking to Frank always makes me end up laughing, though “ending up” may be a bad choice of words in this context. But I ended up thinking.
It’s a great blessing to live in one place long enough to really get to know people and share life with them.
I like living life with people who don’t mind being real and will let me be real, too.
I like living life with people who know that life is far too serious a business to always be taken seriously. Whoever said, “It’s the heart that is unsure of its God that is afraid to laugh” spoke wisely. There are always enough sanctimonious sadsacks around to quite adequately handle that job for the rest of us anyway.
I’ve been around here long enough now (almost 21 years) that I’ve had some wonderful, and terrible, moments to laugh with, and cry with, more than a few in this town, some of whom were my parishioners and many of whom were not. All of those moments are, to me, holy, because living real life with real people is a great gift from the holy God.
As one man of faith has said, “Real life, real Christianity, is more about conversations than it is about conversions.” If you think he — or I — don’t care deeply about helping people find a relationship with Christ, you’ve very much misunderstood. I care. I just want it to be real.
I can’t think of anyplace I’d rather live than right here and have conversations with folks like Frank. After all, I’d hate to be buried (or scattered) by somebody I don’t enjoy drinking coffee with.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at