This paper discusses a case example from a larger case narrative study conducted by the authors during 1995-1999. The case illustrates the premise that the dying experience is ultimately a complex experience and one that the caregiver may never truly understand. Both patient and caregivers remain learners. We propose that while the process of achieving empathic communication necessarily demands "good listening," the palliative care provider may be invited to go beyond the domain of listening, to emotional realms that are neither easy nor comfortable. This paper examines two aspects of empathy: 1) the process of learning to empathize with persons who are dying; 2) empathy as a therapeutic act that requires vulnerability and personal risk within the patient-caregiver relationship.
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