A Short Good Life: Her Father tells Liza’s Story of Facing Death

A Short Good Life: Her Father tells Liza’s Story of Facing Death; Philip Lister in Conversation with Lisa Gornick


Presenter: Philip Lister, M.D.
Discussant: Lisa Gornick, Ph.D.

Monday, October 3, 2022 at 8 PM

Location: Register via the button below to receive the Zoom link

It is an unusual privilege to be granted close access to a child’s thinking during the magical early years of childhood. It’s rarer still when the child in that phase is facing her own death. Liza, an ardent child with a deep love of cows and the color purple, was diagnosed with leukemia at age four and died two years later in 1996. Liza was an unusually expressive child, and her parents, both child psychiatrists and psychoanalysts, were uniquely oriented to appreciate the richness of a child’s mind, most especially the mind of their own child. Through writing a book about the experience, Liza’s father strove to reveal the inner world of a child’s mind—and a parent’s mind—under devastating circumstances that nonetheless needed to be traversed with truth, sensitivity, and developmental attunement. At its center, this is the story of a child’s psychic growth as she grappled to understand all that she could grasp of her experience and of a family finding a way to support this process and accompany their child at every step of the way.


Philip Lister, M.D. is an adult and child psychiatrist. In addition, he is an adult and child psychoanalyst and graduate of the Columbia Psychoanalytic Center for Training and Research, where he is also on the faculty of the Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Program. He is the author of the memoir we will discuss tonight: A Short Good Life, based on the experience of his family as his second child faced her death due to cancer.

As well as working full-time in private practice, he teaches at various medical centers on the subject of death and dying, teaches in the Child Psychiatry Fellowship at Mount Sinai, and is involved with MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), working as a therapist in the research study using MDMA-Assisted Therapy for the treatment of PTSD.


Lisa Gornick, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and graduate of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, where she is on the voluntary faculty. She is the author of three novels—The Peacock Feast (FSG, 2019), Tinderbox (FSG, 2013), and A Private Sorcery (Algonquin, 2002)—and a collection of linked stories, Louisa Meets Bear (FSG, 2015). Her stories and essays have appeared widely, including in The New York Times, The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, Real Simple, and The Wall Street Journal.