Wesleyan College lost a great light this weekend–our chaplain, Reverend William Hurdle. For seventeen years, he encouraged and counseled and delighted in every young woman who needed an ear or a shoulder or a hug.
Reverend Hurdle joined the staff after I graduated, but I’ve had the pleasure of being in his presence many times at college events. Over the last few years, he had grown weaker–he would be seated on the stage already instead of processing in with the faculty and staff in all their regalia. As he made his way to the podium to say an invocation or grant a benediction, his body showed the signs of age and illness, but his voice kept its gentleness.
There are a thousand broken hearts now that he is gone. He truly was the kindest, gentlest, most loving man. I didn’t know before today that he was on Okinawa at the age of seventeen.
Well, none of these words come close.
I’ve been thinking about his “motto” that so many of his friends have quoted this weekend–“Love for the sheer joy of loving.” Not because Jesus told you to, or because you want to improve your own karma, or to pay back some debt. Love for the JOY of loving. Love for the goodness it brings right now, to you.
I was sad today, so Vivi and I took our Kindles and went on a little adventure. We stopped by Trader Joe’s and bought an armload of roses–green and red and white. We ate Belgian frites with feta sauce and read our books. She’s reading “The YoYo Mystery” and I’ve begun “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” We sat at the tall table that we can’t sit at when Carlos is with us. While we were sitting there side by side, she looked up, all freckles and brown curls, and said, “Mama?”
Before she could even start her question, I heard Reverend Hurdle’s voice in my mind and heart, “Love for the sheer joy of loving.” That’s exactly the way I feel when I hear myself being called “Mama.” A simple joy, nothing complicated and not towards any end. Just love.
It reminds me of a talk my friend, Robin, and I had once about Jesus’ love. Even though I am an atheist, I don’t mind talking about Jesus because I think he got a lot of things right. (I don’t talk about religion much because I don’t have any interest in changing how others believe and I don’t plan to change my beliefs either…now back to our story). Robin was trying to reconcile the idea that Jesus loves EVERYONE equally, regardless of how they behave. Hitler, Ghandi, Beyonce and Mr. Rogers all stand in the same line. So Robin had finally found a way that she could picture this unmeasured, inclusive love. She stopped talking and simply spread her arms wide, like a mother would do when her child starts running to her for a hug. That was her idea of what the love of Jesus looked like. Made sense to me.
That’s the image that comes to mind when I think of Reverend Hurdle, arms flung wide, come one, come all.
May those who loved him hold his memory as a blessing. Here’s the lovely blessing I remember hearing from him: