Then one day, Tracy asked to meet with me alone, an unusual request since our meetings had always coincided with one of her treatments. By now, she was much sicker than when we'd first met. During this session, I was shocked to learn that she and John were living apart, and had been separated for two years. Sensing my surprise, Tracy further revealed that their separation was a secret, known to their adult children, two sons and one daughter, their closest friends, and a few others. Most of their grandchildren weren't aware of the separation, and she didn't want me to reveal my knowledge of the situation to anyone, not even their kids.
She said she'd asked John to leave the house when she discovered that he'd had an affair with another woman almost 20 years previously, and had fathered a daughter who was now 18. The affair had lasted a year and a half, and John had sworn to Tracy that he'd been faithful ever since. John himself had revealed this information to Tracy only after her melanoma diagnosis. At that point, she'd asked him to leave their home.
Now that she was ill and her health had continued to decline, she was unsure about the separation. She wanted to explore the issue in therapy. As a devout Roman Catholic, she felt deeply torn between her religious obligation to forgive John and her anger at him, as well as her desire for justice. She couldn't bring herself to agree to live with him again, feeling that the bond of trust between them had been irrevocably destroyed. By now her eldest son, Geoff, who was 35, and her 14-year-old grandson, Bobby, were living in her house, so she didn't need John's constant attention at home. As she said to me, her mind was made up--she wouldn't let him come back, and there was no changing it.
Whatever her affection for John, Tracy felt she couldn't love him as her husband anymore, and didn't want to spend her final weeks or months living under the same roof with him. Moreover, she was adamant about never wanting to meet his adult daughter. I asked her if I could talk to John about this meeting, should the need ever arise after her death. She said yes.