Robert W. “Bob” Bengtson
09-29-26 To 05-08-12
Several weeks ago, Dad and I sat alone at the dinner table. He mumbled softly “My life isn’t worth anything”. I’m pretty sure he was just talking to himself and lamenting his increasing physical disabilities, but I immediately said to him “No Dad, that’s just not true. You have always let me ask questions about anything I didn’t understand. You explained the Lord’s Prayer to me. How’s a little kid supposed to know what ‘Hallowed be’ and ‘trespass’ mean? You and Mom gave me life itself, but most of all, you taught me to believe in something stronger than myself, and stronger than you or Mom.”
The way Dad lived taught many lessons:
Compassion: He and Mom continued hospital visitations long after he had retired and had no parishioners. As a pediatric nurse, I was unprepared when parents of my little patients would ask me “Why is my baby sick?” or “Why is he dying?” Dad told me, “You will never have an answer for that question. Tell them you are sorry, listen, and stay with them. Say no more, unless God leads you to say something specific. Pray for them.”
Integrity: Live in honesty. Stand for what is right and honorable; even when it’s not popular, even when it is awkward for you, even if it gets you in trouble with your board members. When our church truly became ‘United Methodist’ joining into a single conference, Dad said “Our church doors will be open to people of any color. We will welcome all who come to worship. This is God’s house not ours.”
Courage and Perseverance: Staying in God’s service even when people were angry or hurtful, even when vindictive people had baited him into conflicts, even when he himself had bungled it and made things worse or hurt someone’s feelings. When Dad’s self confidence waned, Mom was his rock and God was his strength.
Love: Dad loved his family and his congregation. We were moving again, he’d been asked to leave. I was filled with adolescent rage and said, “They can all go to Hell as far as I’m concerned.” He sharply responded “Don’t say that. Don’t ever say that. Any good I may have done here is negated if you say that.”, then he abruptly left the room. I was shocked. He really loved these people. It wasn’t just his job. That Sunday, Dad’s last Sunday in that pulpit, he preached one of the most beautiful sermons of his career. He begged them not to fight over his moving on, to stop tearing their church apart with petty squabbling and grudges, and to focus on serving their God.
Compassion, Integrity, Courage, Perseverance, and Love. Dad wasn’t perfect, but he allowed his life to be used to help others connect with God. Dad was truly called to his profession.
Sharon D. Bengtson