Oliver Sacks died

August 30, 2015 • 6:45 am

I needn’t explain to the readers who Oliver Sacks was. And I say “was” because The New York Times announced that Sacks died this morning in New York. He was 82.

As I’ve written on this site, he documented his diagnosis of terminal cancer (a melanoma in his eye that eventually metastasized to his brain) and his thoughts on mortality in a series of poignant pieces, also in the Times.  Today’s arts section of the paper also contains a postmortem appraisal, “Oliver Sacks, casting light on the interconnectedness of life.

He was a delightful guy, much admired and loved, and, at the end, finally came out as a gay man. How sad that he found true love only at the end of a closeted life! But at least he had that experience, short as it was.

It’s a convention to say at these times that although the man is gone, his works will live on. And  they will—for a while. But, truth be told, I’d rather he had stayed with us a goodly while longer.

Sacks’s last piece in the Times, “Sabbath“, appeared just two weeks ago, and ended this way:

And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.

Here’s a short video of Sacks discussing his writing:

Oliver Sacks

h/t: Pyers

19 thoughts on “Oliver Sacks died

  1. He will always be loved. A great humanist who used his talents to enhance our lives. I miss him already…….

  2. FOR I CAN SEE THE BALANCE AND YOU HAVE LEFT THE WORLD MUCH BETTER THAN YOU FOUND IT, AND IF YOU ASK ME, said Death, NOBODY COULD DO ANY BETTER THAN THAT…

    1. More accurately, the video posted between one and two hours ago — very, very close to the time Professor Ceiling Cat posted his memorial notice for us, here.

  3. I’ve always admired his writing and his work. I was sad to hear the news of his diagnosis and now again at the news of his death.
    Farewell, Oliver.

    “We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little lives are rounded with a sleep.”

  4. Galileo wrote somewhere that books are wonderful because you can *almost* talk to someone from long ago or far away (he mentions China, which I guess counted in the early 17th century). I think that’s important to remember for this noted author …

  5. The Radiolab website shares some impressive and entertaining photos from Dr. Sack’s memoir:

    http://www.radiolab.org/story/looking-back-dr-sacks/

    I adore seeing photos like this from the youthful escapades of my older friends and colleagues. One of my research colleagues is also participates as a patient in a course I teach to medical students, and they love seeing photos of him as a young man, and hearing his own narrative of his youthful, pre-accident (and post-accident) self. During the interview with him, one of the students asked him how his view of himself as “strapping” had changed over the years, and he responded “I still strap!” 😀

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