I recently learned of the death of an elderly woman I disliked. Actually, I more than disliked her because she was mean, a misery to herself and others, and had no interest in changing. She put herself on a pretty high pedestal, and lived from a place of knowing that her perspective and opinions were the right ones. She did not appreciate her friends, did not return the love of those around her, sat in judgement of everyone she met, and acted more pious than the pope. My sister has a phrase for people like this who live with their nose in the air, their head in the clouds, and their hind-end in God’s judgement seat: too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.
To my dismay, I met this woman at church. I say “dismay” because I was a pastor’s wife for 25 years, and meeting this woman at church meant that I was not only stuck with her, but I was expected to be nice. I technically still am a pastor’s wife, but I was freed of my official title and many societal expectations a couple years ago when my pastor-husband moved from parish ministry to hospital chaplaincy. The change of status was a relief because, quite honestly, I never was a very good pastor’s wife. I was always supportive of my husband and his work, but I had a short fuse with church people who called our house with very un-Christian things to say to me. I was — and am — not good with turning the other cheek. I am much better with the eye-for-an-eye stuff.
And so…I keep two prayer lists. I have always kept two prayer lists. One list is full of the names of lovely people who are facing hardships of one sort or another. This list I pray for every day, and I pray that light and love surround them and that they find the answers and/or healing that they seek. The other list is full of the names of horrible people like the woman who just died. I pray for this list every day, too. But I do not pray for light and love to surround them. No, I pray that they die.
Yes, I do.
I can hear you all now: “You are just as horrible as the horrible people!” and “God doesn’t hear those prayers!” and “It’s the horrible people who need the light and the love to surround them the most!” Settle down. Just. Settle. Down.
In my defense, the people on the second list are all old. They have had many prayers for light and love said for them over their many years, and they have refused them. Yes, you can refuse prayers said for you. These people have also had many opportunities to be a credit to our species and have refused those, too. I understand that people who are bitter and live from a place of hate and judgement often have pain in their past that is like a thorn in their foot. But the woman who died — and others like her — refuse to acknowledge the thorn. So nothing ever changes with them.
She was, for most of her life, a wall where we would all like a door. She had a rigid, repellent quality about her, and a way of making people feel bad about themselves. She once handed me a piece of paper and told me that she had taken the liberty to make a list of New Year’s resolutions she thought I would benefit from. (I burst out laughing, which she did not appreciate.) Practically every sentence she uttered had the word “should” or “shame” in it. As in: “It’s a shame more people don’t come to church.” and “You should lose weight.” and “We should keep immigrants out of our country because they steal our jobs.” Hate to be the one to say it, but she is not what we need more of in our world.
Years ago, I read a newspaper article about a woman who ran a soup kitchen and called everybody “Love.” As in: “How are you doing today, Love?” and “Could you stir that pot, Love?” and “Would you like more of that, Love?” I think she is what this world needs more of.
And so I pray for light and love to surround the soup kitchen lady and others like her, and I pray for a lovely, peaceful death to come for the judgmental woman and others like her. I recognize that I am not in charge of anyone’s expiration date, and my prayers are among millions lifted up at any given moment, but for me, putting it out there that I support God “taking the bad and leaving the good” feels somehow right to me.
We all know people like the horrible woman who died — people acting like a wall where we would like to have a door; people too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. Some of these people have the capacity and the desire to change and to manifest a new reality in their lives. But others do not or, more often, choose not. I am not an angel of death, but for many of these people, the only way for them to manifest a new reality is through death. For the woman I knew, her passing means that she will have the chance to make her peace, ascend, and one day reincarnate into a life where she will grow up to have different expectations of the world and all the people in it. And for that I am grateful.