Dementia. Parkinson’s Disease. Tourette syndrome. The world of the deaf. Vision and perceptions. Autism. Covering conditions from cradle to grave, in his case studies Dr. Sacks put a face on the condition. His examples helped us to understand ourselves and those we know who may be afflicted with such conditions. He cared deeply about all of us. Much like Elisabeth Kübler-Ross http://www.ekrfoundation.org, rather than simply quoting peer-reviewed journal studies, his books remind us of the reality of having real people in our lives who have these conditions.
Dr. Sacks passed away at the age of 82. He was a neurologist at NYU School of Medicine. He has always been one of those people I would have loved to have 10 minutes with to chat and pick his brain. In addition to his brilliant career as a doctor and writer, there was something very human about Dr. Sacks, and when he wrote it was clearly expressed in his words. The New York Times has referred to Dr. Sacks as “the poet laureate of medicine.”
Sabbath, wasone of his last articles in The New York Times published before his death. In this article, he shared his early experiences with his deeply-religious family. He also talks about the pain he felt at an early age revealing his homosexuality to his parents and his mother’s rejection. In the end, Sabbath is a celebration of a new day, and a time of peace at the end of his lifelong journey.
Also be sure to visit his website: http://www.oliversacks.com and click on his blog and read All Hands on Board and click on the link to the four-minute film about “Patrick Otema, a fifteen-year-old boy from Uganda that had never had a conversation with anyone in his life. Despite my own battle with deafness over the last 30 years, I cannot imagine the isolation this young man has felt in his 15 years. No music. No laughter. No connections.
This blog is too short to include all the many contributions Dr. Oliver Sacks has made to society. His website contains a wealth of information about the man, his work and how he impacted people around the globe.
Obviously, Dr. Sacks had his own struggles in the course of his lifetime, but he placed his attention on others and leaving the world a better place. In the article Sabbath, Dr. Sacks concluded:
“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.” (NY Times, August 14, 2015)
Nicely done Dr. Sacks. Wherever you are in the universe, thank you from “us.”