C.S. Lewis writes that the very fact that time itself seems so strange and surprising to us is proof that we were not originally created to live in it as our natural habitat. Presumably, fish don’t feel wet in water, but we fight with time continually.
Within just a few days I’ve officiated at the funeral of a dear friend, helped bear the caskets of my uncle and his dear wife to the open graves in the family cemetery I’ll be mentioning, and held in my arms my newest granddaughter, Ella Vernell Shelburne. Time seems to stand still as I gaze into that beautiful face. I could hold her forever. But standing still is exactly what time never really does here.
My oldest brother once scanned and shared some great family photos he’d borrowed from our Uncle David (who I just mentioned). My favorite is a wonderful picture of my maternal grandfather, Granddaddy Key, who died back in 1975.
I never remember Granddaddy as having anything but a full head of the thick, cottony white hair. But in this old picture, my dark-headed grandfather is wearing a big cowboy hat and is dressed in a white shirt with a vest and ribbon tie. Maybe 12 years old, he sits beside his two daintily-dressed and lady-like young sisters who are wearing lacy white dresses complete with white bows and white ribbons in their hair. The three siblings are perched on a small dock jutting out into a little pond. Aunt Vida and Aunt Grace, looking pretty and pristine, each have an arm gently extended and are gazing down at the little white ducks feasting on the bread crumbs my great-aunts are dropping.
Granddaddy is looking calmly down into the water, and he’s feeding the pond populace, too, but with a different goal. He’s holding a cane pole with line and hook attached, and he’s waiting for the tug that will mean the end of the worm on the hook below.
In the distance, sitting cross-legged, relaxing and lost in thought, gazing across the pond from the other bank, is my great-grandfather Alf Key who was born in the same week Abraham Lincoln died. Alf has a big hat, too, and, if you already know to look for it, you can just maybe make out the tips of his big wide moustache.
I can’t see the eyes of any of them. They’re all looking calmly down or across the pond, just feeding the ducks, or the fish, or just thinking.
But they make me think.
Real people, their blood runs in my veins and in Ella’s. Three of them were, in that picture, far younger than I am now. All have long since gone on, their bodies at rest in the little country cemetery that sits just across a mesquite-filled pasture from the old windmill and the ruins of the old house where my mother was born. All of this, along with the tombstones, are quiet reminders that, as colleague Bert Mercer reminds me, “once there lived here a race of people a little lower than the angels.”
The human race. And in that old photo a little group of my ancestors eking out a living when life was truly hard, just taking some time to relax. To sit. To think. I never entered their mind. But they certainly have entered mine.
So much has changed, but what is truly important is exactly the same. You and I will pass on the values, the faith, the love that is the real legacy we are building today for generations yet unborn. Sooner than we think.
You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!
Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.