By Curtis Shelburne
Setting up housekeeping is no easy task. But the opposite task on the other end of the journey is infinitely harder. Ask anyone who has buried their last parent or whose parents have had to move into a care facility. That person will tell you that sifting through three-quarters worth of a century’s accumulated mounds of paper, pictures, trinkets, and family treasures is, well, a daunting task.
But it can be interesting.
It can bring laughter.
And it certainly can make you think.
Probably such an undertaking takes much of its character and color from the character and lives of the folks who’ve gone on. That, at least, was my experience with my own parents.
Mom passed away first, and we cleaned and culled. But the real job came when Dad passed away some years later.
I was surprised at some of what they kept and some of the treasures and the trinkets we ran across.
We found tons of birthday and anniversary cards that Mom and Dad gave to each other, cards of both sorts lovingly inscribed in their completely unique handwriting. (Mom’s was the most beautiful and perfect penmanship I have ever seen; Dad’s, perhaps the most unique.) I don’t think they ever threw away a single card.
My siblings and I even found the little pencil-written penny post card that Dad had mailed to his own folks as he and my mother had just left their wedding for their honeymoon. He described them as “supremely happy,” and signed the card proudly, “Mr. & Mrs. G. B. Shelburne, Jr.”
I found the letter one of the men I’m named for had penned to me and my family when I had just been born. I found a kindergarten graduation diploma, a notebook with pasted pictures used to help me learn the letters of the alphabet in first grade, and crayon-colored pictures that I had drawn in third grade.
I found a letter I’d written home from scout camp, dripping with homesickness.
I found a number of pictures of myself in various embarrassing stages of adolescent ugly-duckling-hood.
And I think I found every letter I’d ever written Mom and Dad once I’d left home. I read some of the college letters we’d written, and I was reminded reading between the lines (I’d blissfully almost forgotten) that Juana and I thought we might starve before we got me through school.
We didn’t starve.
We made it.
And that may be one very valuable lesson that comes from taking this sort of mandatory trip down memory lane. What we were so worried about then either never happened or we got through it.
Mom and Dad made a successful trip through this life. If our eyes stay focused on the same Lord who led them through, so will we. We may not know what may transpire in our life’s story tomorrow or next week. But Christians know the Author. He’s told us the end of the story. And it’s great!
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at