Some years ago I was consulted by a psychologist, a man in his 60s who wanted help with relationships and in thinking about his life, which was threatened by heart disease. At the time I was in my 70s, and his condition had special resonance for me: my father had died of congestive heart failure, and I have feared I will die in the same way.
"Do I want to work with a man who may die, and who may be closer to death than I am?" I reflected. If we have a good relationship, I will have to experience grief. If I do not come to care about him, the therapy will not be helpful. On the other hand, I might not outlive him, and losing a therapist is painful. Should he be subjected to that loss too?
But I liked the new patient and thought that in his situation, I would want someone to have the courage to be with me. So we began meeting from time to time.[...]