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Love is a Bother

by the Rev. Scott Walters

 

“No pressure.” That’s what Dad used to say after making some request that might involve the slightest inconvenience of the requestee. “No pressure,” was his way of saying he didn’t want to be a bother, but there was this one small thing he was wondering if you’d be ok with … if it’s not too much trouble, you know.

 

Ardelle and I were in Memphis a week ago last Tuesday, with plans to fly out later that day, when Dad died in Maryland. We buried him on Sunday afternoon in northwest Arkansas. If you’re thinking that there must have been a thousand decisions and details to attend to, not to mention thousands of miles to be traveled, to get from one end of that sentence to the other, you’re right. If you’re thinking the people making those trips and plans did so begrudgingly, you couldn’t be further from the truth. 

 

Nobody wants to be a bother. But what is love if not the bother we take with each other? It’s sacrificing your Saturday for a nephew’s dance recital or mowing a neighbor’s lawn when she’s out of town or baking a lasagna for your uncle when Aunt Lucy’s in the hospital. Heck, we human beings will scale mountains and swim channels and make pilgrimages. We will learn to knit or play chess or rebuild carburetors or breed daylilies for nothing more than love of the endeavor itself. Why do we think we need to keep the people who love us from bothering with us, whether in life or in death? Love is always a bother. Love is the bother.

 

I was planning to lead staff meeting before our flight left that Tuesday. But when we got the call around 5 a.m. that Dad had died peacefully with my brother Kirk and his wife Randi at his side, I messaged the staff saying I was just a little too heartbroken to come in. A week later, I find myself still pretty worn out from what the days we’ve just lived through required of us. But I’m questioning that word: “heartbroken.” It’s true that a heart can be overwhelmed and damaged beyond repair by this world. But a heart is not a fragile object like a vase or a lamp. The heart is a muscle, and use and strain are how muscles get stronger. Maybe “heartsore” is closer to what I was. Maybe heartsore is closer to what I am still, as there’s nothing in our weariness that any of us would trade for the lighter workout a lesser love would have required. In fact, I suspect our hearts are sore because they’ve grown at least a little from the lifting they were given to do.

 

Best of all is the way one heart can’t do some work alone, and so ends up relying on others, bothering them with its need of them, asking some to fly in from a far coast on short notice, asking others to sing “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” or say graveside prayers in the snow or even just read a blog post written as a meandering thank you to every heart, from Memphis to Manhattan, who carried some corner of our sadness. Carried it gladly, because they were wise enough to know that such work is not what depletes or breaks our hearts. It’s the bother they are built for. The bother that builds them into what they and we were made to become.


59 thoughts on “Love is a Bother”

    1. Spoken by someone I take such pleasure bothering ‘cause I know she’ll always throw a big eloquent bucket of bother right back at me.

  1. Oh, Scott . . . Such touching and beautiful reflections of one of life’s greatest challenges. While we were not able to make the physical trip to be with you and so many who loved your precious dad, we were certainly with you in spirit and via live-stream. Learning so much about Jim, about your mother, and about your family’s wonderful treasured memories was / is a special gift. Not surprisingly, in spite of your raw emotions, you have thought of all of the rest of us as you’ve shared new perspectives: “Love is a bother” and “Heartbroken” vs. “Heartsore”. . . As you and yours move forward, please remember to take care of yourselves: physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. We are all “here” for you.

    PS . . . Trying to see the screen through misty eyes is difficult.

  2. Scott, what a loving message. Our hearts are holding you and your family up. We enjoyed the beautiful service with all those touching tributes. It reminds me that we only knew Jim for 3 years, but he really left a mark on Mark and me. We were truly honored to know him!

  3. Grateful that you shared your raw emotion and grief with us, Scott. It pierced my soul and left me breathless. May you feel your sweet dad’s spiritual presence grow stronger with each passing day, soothing your aching heart.

  4. What a beautiful, touching expression of your grief. No matter their age or the wonderful life they have lived, it’s so hard to lose a parent. Thanks for sharing. We miss you and the rest of your sweet family.

    1. Thanks for sharing Scott. What a wonderful perspective on bother/love. I’m so glad we were part of your life for many years & can still connect with you through reading your blogs. Sending you to seminary was so very much the right thing!!

  5. Hard to hold back my Heart soreness reading this. This makes us feel it too…beautifully written. It helps us all understand our love for each other in another light that makes it all more worth it than we even realized.

    1. What, you’d never bothered to look it up? This one made me laugh out loud, always the best medicine Dad would say.

  6. Scott, just as John Lewis so eloquently preached the gospel of “good trouble”, you so beautifully exemplify what living “good bother” should mean to all of us. Know that your heart sore is being soothed by our love for you, Arielle and family. What a special gentleman your dad was and always will be in our hearts. God’s peace.

    1. You know us so well, Linda. Including that we’re not really cake people … with one huge exception. Grateful for you.

  7. I have saved a copy of the homily you gave at Eric and Shannon’s wedding – which was all about ‘why bother?’ If we don’t bother, what else is there? Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful family with your Calvary family. A grand example of how it can and should work and it gives me hope.

  8. Thanks for sharing and glad you are back home. Tough times . . . prayers and keeping you all close during these sad times.

  9. Scott, Nina and I are so saddened to know what you are going through. You have joined a club of those so fortunate to know what a parents unconditional love truly feels like. Keep telling things about him like you do, as it shows a true genuine gratitude for the experiences both of you had.🎶 that will be a glad reunion day 🎶. We love you Scott, let us know anything we can do.

  10. Someone to hold me too close.
    Someone to hurt me too deep.
    Someone to sit in my chair,
    And ruin my sleep,
    And make me aware,
    Of being alive.
    Being alive.

    Somebody need me too much.
    Somebody know me too well.
    Somebody pull me up short,
    And put me through hell,
    And give me support,
    For being alive.
    Make me alive.
    Make me alive.

    Make me confused.
    Mock me with praise.
    Let me be used.
    Vary my days.

    But alone,
    Is alone,
    Not alive.

    Somebody crowd me with love.
    Somebody force me to care.
    Somebody let me come through,
    I’ll always be there,
    As frightened as you,
    To help us survive,
    Being alive.
    Being alive.
    Being alive!

    —Sondheim

  11. Scott, I think any of us who have lost a beloved parent, particularly at a distance, can identify closely with what you have written. Thank you for finding the words so often to express what the rest of us are feeling. May God’s comfort be with you and your family. Milton

  12. Being a part of a church community or even a community of friends and neighbors makes it easy to bother to help our fellow humans or step up for others when others are in need or just need kind words to lift them up. A real human quality is to bother.

  13. Scott, your words are beautiful and true. Thank you for bothering to love us so well. You, Ardelle, and your family are in my prayers as you sit quietly with your weary, sore, yet stronger hearts.

  14. We’ll said and I agree with “heart-sore”. I lost my dad in September and my heart wasn’t broken. But it is hurt. Dad is now home and whole and that is a wonderful thing. Yet my heart hurts because of mine and others loss.

    It makes my heart feel better to know that Dr Walter’s legacy lives on your eloquence and ministry.

    I know your dad received a hearty “Well done, good and faithful servant” when he was received in heaven.

    Take care of yourself and your family.

  15. Bless your sore heart, Scott. Reading this today as I sit in my mother’s hospital room as she awaits surgery is a true gift. Thank you!

  16. Scott and Ardelle,

    Paul and I were both sad that we could not join you for your dad’s homecoming celebration, but did join you from afar (Costa Rica). We also remember the privilege being with your dad and mom on one of her last days.

    I so appreciate your words about “being a bother”. When contemplating Jesus’ life we can say that he spent his whole life caring for people’s bothers.
    Your words help to remind me that we should even seek out situations that cause us inconvenience.

    Blessings to both of you and your family.

  17. These thoughts are so raw and beautiful in a myriad of ways. I am glad I can read it again and again to let it sink deep. I am grateful that you shared them.

  18. You always say it all in the perfect possible way.

    From someone who has been a BOTHER to my brother. I am grateful forever to you and Ardelle. 💚

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