Public word came of the departure of Oliver Sacks from his physical being early yesterday morning through a blog written by his long-time and devoted assistant, Kate Edgar, fittingly titled A Life Well Lived. It was accompanied by a photo from Bill Hayes taken in London three months ago, symbolizing many things about Dr. Sacks. One is that Oliver was known for having his head delightfully in the clouds, yet at the same time serving as a lock in key for the many aspects of neurology in which he studied and celebrated the individual. He had a unique knack for serving an an explorer and as a guide at the same time.
Many of you reading this came to know Oliver vicariously through the insights shared by Sue Barry, most recently On Being a Subject of Oliver Sacks. Plans for a service for Sacks have not yet been announced, but one imagines that it will celebrate the life of an individual who will be dearly missed by the incredible number of persons he touched either directly or indirectly. Many doctors are lauded for their skill in the laying on of hands, but Oliver’s skill was in the connecting and sharing of minds. Meticulous in his brand of research, a Foundation has been established to carry on his work. I’m looking forward to reading the two upcoming articles written by Dr. Sacks that will be published posthumously this week in the New York Review of Books and The New Yorker Magazine, holding on to that anticipatory rush from a favorite writer’s forthcoming work.
The last formal communication from Dr. Sacks was through his Facebook/Twitter feed last week on a beautiful way to perform one of the world’s great musical treasures. It was a YouTube link to a flash mob performance of Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
The translation of the lyrics to the opening of that Symphony seems quite fitting:
Joy, beautiful spark of divinity,
Daughter from Elysium,
We enter, burning with fervour,
heavenly being, your sanctuary!
Your magic brings together
what fashion has sternly divided.
All men shall become brothers,
wherever your gentle wings hover.