Author of life will have last word

By Curtis Shelburne

Recently my younger brother Jim and I walked among the headstones dotting the small country cemetery nestled near the Edith Community a little over eight miles outside of Robert Lee, Texas.

Well-kept but absolutely blending in with their surroundings, the headstones had grown up where once only mesquite trees and prickly pears had dotted the landscape. Not far off, but far enough away to be absolutely unobtrusive, was a defunct country cafe and a flock of goats.

A few jackrabbits darted in and out between the stones, oblivious to the mute but powerful witness those granite markers bore to untold stories and the fabric of life and love, tragedy and triumph, joy and sadness laid out before us in the patchwork quilt of humanity’s struggle. Jim and I walked, talked, and wondered about the stories.

Just a little way over from where we were standing was a short white stone, a little stone lamb resting on its top, bearing the names of three boys, triplets we supposed: Terry, Kerry and Gerry, and only one date. Date of birth. Date of death. The same.

Not far away was a larger stone bearing two names, a mother and child. The date of her death was the date of the birth, and the death, of her child. And it pointed to another death. A death of dreams. Her dreams, of course. But also the dreams of a husband/father as on that day the sun of his deepest joy was unexpectedly eclipsed by an even deeper sadness.

More than a few of the names in that country cemetery I recognized. Names of Robert Lee families. Harmon. Bruton. Boykin. King. Peay.

And names like Key and Shropshire. Both strains of blood run in my veins.

And Shelburne.

The first time I ever saw that name chiseled on a headstone, it caught me by surprise. Still makes me feel funny. It shouldn’t.

Alf Key, my great-granddad, donated the land for that cemetery. His bones lay there. Not far from the windmill and ruins of his old homestead. As do D.P. Key’s, his son and my grandfather, and Wilma Shelburne’s, D.P.’s daughter. My mother. And G. B. Shelburne, Jr.’s. My father.

The pattern on the quilt is emerging. Death hasn’t skipped a single generation. And it won’t skip mine.

But the Author of life will have the last word in the story.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at