Oliver Sacks, the peerless writer and neurologist, died on Sunday. He was 82.
Sacks was a working physician for his entire adult life, but it was his work as an author that cemented his legacy. He became an icon for his empathetic, boundlessly curious explorations of the human mind and spirit. In books like "Awakenings" and "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat," as well as countless articles for outlets like the New Yorker, Sacks used the stories of his own patients to guide readers on a journey into every fascinating corner of the brain.
In his last year, Sacks had turned his penetrating gaze inward. He released a memoir in which, for the first time, he frankly discussed his life as a gay man. Then, in February, he revealed in the New York Times that he had been diagnosed with cancer.
That article was the first in a series of exquisite essays in the paper about the twilight of his life. In the last one, published earlier this month, Sacks wrote about the Sabbath and about death:
[N]ow, 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.