I was sad – at first – when I saw the news Sunday night that Oliver Sacks had passed away. The writer and neurologist died following a battle with cancer at age 82.
But when my frown on this news turned quickly into a smile, I realized that this was a man who really lived and that no passing like his can spend much time on the gloom before being overwhelmed by the joy and healing he provided so, so many. Both through his words and science
I never got to meet Oliver Sacks. For that I’m sad. But I did correspond with him once through his assistant and a note that he sent me that I’ll always treasure. Not long after my stroke, as I was struggling to learn to read and write again, I stumbled on to a BBC piece featuring some of his cases. One was about the Canadian crime writer, Howard Engel, whose words had been taken from him following a stroke.
It was the first time I’d heard of anybody with stroke damage remotely like my own. And it was my first time seeing Oliver Sacks through the broader lenses of his amazing work.
I connected with Engle and Sacks within days of seeing the piece. And I started to devour their books with this new lens.
There are loads of docs out there and likely many more writers. I can’t think of many whose work has touched so many people so profoundly. One of Oliver Sacks’ careers would have been a huge blessing to the world. How awesome and inspiring it is that his life was so profound and unselfish serving as both a writer and a neurologist!