Jesus on the Wall

by Jul 31, 2018

As far back as I can remember, the picture hung on my grandmother’s wall in her living room. Jesus holds a little lamb in one arm, and a shepherd’s crook in the other hand. Sheep gather around, and one looks up at Jesus (Like he knows him and trusts him?).

My first memory of this portrait of Jesus was when GrandByrd and GrandDaddy were farming up in Tipton County, Tennessee. Their house had no running water; yes, we drew water from the well; and there was an outhouse. And Granddaddy required the  heating stove be extinguished every night. (Story was that he’d been in a house fire in his younger days.)

In the very early years, I was too young to be of much help in the fields; so I stayed with GrandByrd and “helped” her around the house. She taught me about churning butter; pickling cucumbers; tending to baby chicks, mixing cookie dough; and other necessities; and we always had PLENTY of good old time Gospel music on her tube radio.

She’d hum along, and I marveled at the harmonies and chord structures even though I had no idea that was what it was at the time. I think maybe her favorite was the Blackwood Brothers.

And invariably — as little children know — there was nap time. GrandByrd would give me an “Indian blanket,” and I’d do my best to wrap up myself completely in it — seems there always was a draft  somewhere, no matter how hard I tried to tuck in to fill the gaps. I’d cover one, and that would open another. (The house WAS cold!). Eventually I’d get comfortable in a big easy chair in her living room ….. the black and white TV showing some corny program from one of the three stations we could pick up back then.

I’d get bored with the TV, and my eye always wound up turning to that picture on the wall.

Who IS this Jesus guy?

Why is he carrying that lamb?

Why are all those other sheep gathered around?

What is this story about?

And then I’d sleep. Sweet sleep — child’s sleep — deep dreamy sleep….restful and happy sleep.

 

_____

 

Eventually GrandByrd and GrandDaddy gave up farming and moved to Memphis; and that picture came with them. And it hung in their living room there in Frayser until the day she died.

I got a call from my mother — “If there is anything of GrandByrd’s you’d like to have, you better claim it now.”

I wanted that picture.

But — that picture had already been claimed by another family member.  I didn’t know which.

Years and years passed — and I went to visit my Aunt Jeanette in Florida. I always loved Jeanette. She was just about the sweetest aunt a boy could ever hope to have.  She used to spend a lot of time with me at GrandByrd’s. Sometimes we caught the Greyhound in Frayser and rode it out to Crosstown where GrandDaddy would wait in his old pickup.

As we were saying our goodbyes…..Jeanette said, “Before you go….” And she left the room.

When she returned, she had this Jesus portrait in her hands.

“Someone told me this picture means a lot to you,” she said. “And I want you to have it.”

Jeanette took me in her arms, and I sobbed like a baby.

Since then, it hung for a  couple of years in the 4th – 6th grade Sunday school room at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Conway, AR where Sherry and I did our best to teach children about Jesus. (The Right Rev. Bishop of the Diocese of Olympia was our assisting priest then.)  Now it hangs in our living room here in Houston, TX. I’ve been pondering and exploring that picture and that story for over 60 years now.

And to this day, I remember my lovely GrandByrd; how sweet she was to me, and I find myself asking.

Who IS this Jesus guy?

Why is he carrying that lamb?

Why are all those other sheep gathered around?

What is this story about?

And then I sleep. Sweet sleep — child’s sleep — deep dreamy sleep….restful and happy sleep.