She walked into the bank one day, looking sad because she had just learned this news. The bank teller, a woman named Mary, said, "Boy, you look down in the mouth today. What's wrong?" And the woman, whose name is Mickey, said, "I just found out I don't have anybody who can give me a kidney." And Mary said, "What is your blood type?" Mary told me later that at that exact moment, "I knew that I would match"and that I was going to give her a kidney." She said, "Something came over me."
Then I meet up with these two guys in Detroit. One is an Italian guy from New York City, and the other is Larry Wynn, originally from Mississippi. They both work as executives for General Motors, but they were not close friends. They had gone with a number of other co-workers to some baseball games and things like that, but that was about it. Larry told me that on the very day that he discovered that his sister could not donate a kidney (which was only three days after his father had died), he went from Pontiac to Detroit, and for some reason he had a strong feeling that he wanted to see his old co-worker, Sal.
He went to Sal's office, but Sal was not there. So he went and did whatever other business he was there to do. On the way out, he pushed the up button, even though he was intending to go down and leave the building. He said to me later, "I'm not quite sure why I did that." But he went back to Sal's office, and by this time Sal was back from lunch. Sal said the same kind of thing to Larry that Mary had said to Mickey, "You look kind of down today." And Larry said, "I just learned that my sister doesn't match and can't give me a kidney." And Sal used the exact same language as Mary had. He said, "Something came over me." And at that moment, he said to Larry, "I'll give you a kidney."
REDWOOD: What is this "something" that came over them?
BREHONY: It depends on your point of view in terms of the language you might use to describe it. Larry talked about it as being the Holy Spirit. I think it can be the Self. It can be that place in each of us that is connected and knows it. Most of us can understand, as your question framed, that we would give a kidney to a beloved child, or even a very good friend, or somebody that we loved. All these people have done is expand that outward.
REDWOOD: You are a psychologist who specializes in transitional periods of life, such as midlife and death and dying. What led you to this focus? Do more people seek out therapy at these times?
BREHONY: Very often, yes. I am one of those therapists who doesn't particularly believe in diagnoses. I think it works in many other areas of medicine and healing, but in the area of psychiatry and psychology I think it doesn’t work. I'm in private practice, and it might be different if I worked in a state hospital, where many people truly have profound psychiatric disorders that I think are probably as biological as they are anything else. But mostly, that’s not who I see. Mostly, I see normal, functional, everyday people who are going through a hard time in life, and maybe don't have some of the resources they need in order to cope with the problem. The book I just finished, which is as yet untitled -- I sent it to my publisher under the title, A Big Old Book about Suffering, by Kathleen Brehony -- in a way it's an exploration of that question, of what we need to deal with the inevitable changes and transitions and struggles in life.