Mom’s letter greatest Christmas gift

Curtis Shelburne

I received a nice Christmas present this morning that was truly a surprise: a letter from my mom.

One glance at the envelope told me who it was from. No reading required. My mother’s handwriting was the most beautiful I have ever seen. She could have written the book on perfect cursive and impeccable penmanship. Since Mom passed away in 1992, getting a letter from her was nothing I expected this Christmas.

Well, okay, actually the letter wasn’t written to me, it was just kindly handed to me by my friend Van McCormick. And it wasn’t written recently. Mom wrote it to my folks’ dear friends, Van’s parents, Leonard & Tennie McCormick, on “Saturday, Jan. 31, 1981.” Mom was replying to the note the McCormicks had sent in a Christmas card.

What Mom wrote brought back a warm flow of memories.

My oldest brother and sister-in-law had just returned from twenty years of missionary work in Malawi, Africa, and were moving into their new Stateside home in Houston.

Mom wrote about the beautiful weather they were having in Houston and told of her joy in being able to get back to her yard work. She was a gardening artist and the yard was her canvas. She describes in the letter “lots of azaleas, a few roses, narcissus, pansies, Johnny Jump-ups” and red pyracantha berries “keeping us and the birds happy.”

“G. B. [my dad],” Mom wrote, had recently been “somewhere in Mexico doing mission work. … He enjoyed it and feels there is much promise there for a fruitful work.” Understated is the deep relief I hear in her words as she says that “he has no plans to become deeply involved, such as any move in that direction.” But her words remind me again of how Dad loved to teach the Bible in Spanish (and long enjoyed teaching a weekly Bible class in Spanish).

Mom writes, “I’m just praying [for] God to help us know where he wants us to spend our remaining little day of life.” I know now how that prayer was long ago answered.

Mom wrote on about a visit she and Dad had enjoyed with the McCormicks. She just wished it could have been longer.

She wrote about my 89-year-old grandmother’s failing health, and expressed her sympathy for Tennie’s recent loss of a brother. She waxed philosophic about some “loneliness that can never be cured on this earth.” But she said, “We wouldn’t want to remain here on this [present] earth forever.”

Yes, this letter from my mom was quite a nice and unexpected gift this Christmas. In two little half-pages of her beautiful hand, she talks about what really is important in life, the joy and beauty God gives us right here, and our confident hope that God has in mind something far better that will never end.

The most important gifts my mother gave me still bless me every day. But it surely was nice this Christmas to get to open up this new one.

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