Memorial to Dr. Oliver Sacks

oliversacksWhen I was sixteen years old, my mother started dating a man who eventually became my stepfather. He and I had fantastic conversations about topics I had never even realized existed. He opened my experience of the cognitive world in ways both beautiful and expansive. That all began with The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks.

I’m sitting here, at my desk, looking out over my forest, with that book in front of me. It is emotional for me, to consider this book.

First, because my stepfather suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2010. He could have used Dr. Sacks.

Second, because Dr. Sacks passed away yesterday.

Dr. Sacks may have been a neurologist, but he spoke on a wide range of subjects – from the periodic table to music to…well…pretty much everything except sex. Sacks was gay, and after a few unhappy flings as a young man, revoked the idea of love, sex, and romance until he was in his late-70’s. His coming out story is poignant, and you can listen to it (along with a few of his thoughts on learning he had liver cancer) here:

My cognitive world is a little less golden without Dr. Sacks’ presence in it. I will be re-reading his books and re-listening to his recordings in the coming days and months. I recommend everyone else do the same. While Dr. Sacks didn’t talk much about sex, the way he lived his life and worked with his patients was the most beautiful lived example of how to love that I have ever seen. And what is sex ed other than education on how to love?