The soft & the hard

“Hang on; which one of us is dead?”

This was my thought upon spying, among my donors, the name of a person I had actually said a prayer for, in the belief that he had died. I had received the most persuasive evidence, although in retrospect it was merely an electronic report. One should hesitate to believe anything that has appeared only on a computer screen.

Checking my own pulse, I confirmed that the alternatives (my own death, or both of us dead) could also be dismissed as an erring rumour.

Fritz, to misname him, is not a close or intimate friend, but a reliable friend nonetheless, and an easy person to like. I do not regret saying a prayer for him. As a (late) priest once told me, “We should also pray for the living.”

This was his suggestion when I discovered that a former girlfriend — whom I was told, during a chance encounter with her sister, had died — was very much alive. I had gone to much trouble to forgive this girl, whose infidelity had caused me much grief when I was young. But if she was, as it were, “still kicking,” I might have to go through it all over again. How irritating she could be (and her sister, too, now that I was thinking of it)!

The priest convinced me to “stick by my guns.” Yes, she should “remain forgiven,” even if scandalously quite alive. (“A firm act of forgiveness is like shooting someone.” He gave a homily on this.)

He went further, for he detected that my forgiveness had been an act of sentimentality. He proposed that I confirm it with an act of unsentimental, “hard” forgiveness.