The Last Session

Mourning Yoram Hazan - so much more than a psychologist.

"Today at five to five in Tel Aviv?" he wrote at 12:32 P.M. last Thursday, and I replied, "I can't today." "We tried ...," he wrote. That was how I missed my last chance to see Yoram Hazan alive. Not many hours afterward - so I was told two days later - he suffered cardiac arrest at his beautiful home in the German Colony neighborhood of Jerusalem. "His surprising death," the mourning notices said, because Yoram Hazan was young and healthy and didn't even smoke. Under his influence, I also stopped smoking, seven years and one week before he passed away.

How does one mourn for a psychologist who died? The truth is that I have no idea. But for me, Yoram Hazan was far more than a psychologist. He accompanied me, with breaks, for more than 20 years. The breaks were the main thing during that period. That's how it was from the beginning, when I was still his patient at the Israel Psychoanalytic Institute. Twice a week (of the four sessions scheduled ) I would miss our appointments. The other two times I would lie on the plastic-covered bed, lay my head on the pillow whose slip Yoram would change for each new patient, and spend most of the time just crying at the sight of a picture of Sigmund Freud leaning on a banister and smoking - for sure, smoking.

The last session
Avi Ofer

One day, when I was in the midst of the crisis of my life, I looked for a therapist. It was N. who told me, "The problem is that you need someone brilliant and acerbic whom you will not be able to confuse with your verbal skill. You need Yoram Hazan." I got to him skeleton-thin (the sudden anorexia was only one symptom of the crisis ), chain-smoking and my face as black as the edges of a cooking pot.

Our analysis went on for four years, during which Yoram completed his tenure at the institute and opened a clinic on Hapalmach Street. He would open the door, and I, barely giving him a glance, would enter, lie down on the bed, on which there was a cover simulating an Indian rug - replacing the plastic sofa at the institute - and gaze at the poster of an exhibition in Amsterdam, which had taken the place of the Freud portrait. Mostly I cried, sometimes I spoke.

Even as a psychoanalyst, Yoram was not one of the silent ones. He would intervene in the midst of my words and never committed the sin of using a cliche. Not once did he use terms like "transference," "resistance," "ego" or "super-ego," and my attempts to impress him with those concepts (after all, I had once studied psychology ) aroused in him (as far as I could judge without seeing his face ) moderate scorn.

If any advantage accrues to psychoanalysis, it's in the lying down. The fact that you do not see your therapist's face allows you to turn him into whomever you want - father, mother, sister. In my mind's eye I turned Yoram Hazan into a kind of disembodied responsible adult, someone whose task it was to safeguard me, a kind of secular God. So, it is impossible to describe the astonishment that seized me when after four years, when we decided together to end the psychoanalysis, Yoram asked me to take a seat opposite him. I was astonished to see that he had blue eyes and was a handsome man with a thick mane of hair, or, in short, as I told him at the time, "I never realized that you are such a hunk - at least I could have fantasized about you if I had known."

But don't blame Yoram for the fact that I am the result of his therapy. Believe me, my situation would be a lot worse if he hadn't put me back on my feet after that crisis. I have met quite a few therapists over the years, and all of them, like me, swear by him. You could not impute any posturing, any triteness of language, any easy caricature of therapists to Yoram Hazan, the person who never forgot a word I said to him.

A few years after the end of the analysis I went back to regular therapy. At the time, my parents embarked on their parallel course of dying, which ended with the death of both of them on the same day. There is no chance in the world that I would not have hospitalized myself had it not been for the support I received from Yoram Hazan, who was capable not only of being brilliant and acerbic, but also very humane.

We lived in the same neighborhood and hobnobbed with more or less the same people, yet, uncharacteristically, I avoided as much as I could hearing personal details about him. I knew only that he had married the most beautiful girl in the psychology department and that before that he was an adored commander in the Haruv reconnaissance unit. On one occasion, I was told, he said to one of the soldiers under his command, "My dear, you have the intelligence of a dead monkey." For me, even his impatience, cynicism and pungent sense of humor - attributes not usually associated with psychologists - turned out to be very effective instruments.

After my parents died, I went back to Yoram occasionally for a conversation when needed. For me, the knowledge that Yoram Hazan always existed somewhere was a safety net for life. There are people who believe that God safeguards them - I believed in Yoram Hazan like I would a charm.

The truth is that with a little effort, I could have gone to that meeting on Thursday, but after all the years of therapy I went through I am still an obsessive procrastinator. Thus I missed the chance to see Yoram for the last time, and I will never forgive myself for that loss.

Obviously his death is a tremendous loss to his two children, to his wife, his friends, his students and to everyone who knew him; but from my point of view, the meaning of the loss is the disappearance of the only person in whose wisdom, morality, good-heartedness toward me I believed in devoutly, and also that he would always be there to keep me from doing more ridiculous things. Now, in his memory, I intend to take care of myself and become normal. Or, as Yoram, who despised terms like "normal," would have put it, "To be capable of believing in the possibility that one day things will be good."