life

Farewell, Oliver Sacks ⇒

Oliver Sacks, famous writer and neurologist, has died. From his website:

Oliver Sacks died early this morning at his home in Greenwich Village, surrounded by his close friends and family. He was 82. He spent his final days doing what he loved—playing the piano, writing to friends, swimming, enjoying smoked salmon, and completing several articles. His final thoughts were of gratitude for a life well lived and the privilege of working with his patients at various hospitals and residences including the Little Sisters of the Poor in the Bronx and in Queens, New York.

It's interesting to read his thoughts on life and death, as well as cancer. Cancer has had a profound impact on my family this year. Knowing that death is approaching is a strange feeling, especially for someone you love. The biggest challenge, I think, is keeping perspective, which Oliver Sacks always did well. From his New York Times op-ed in February 2015, when he revealed his terminal cancer diagnosis:

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

That fear can be both for the person with cancer and for their loved ones. These words are helpful even for those who survive their loved one, and I hold them close to me always.

Rest in peace, Oliver Sacks. Thank you, for everything.

★ Making it a point to live.

In light of the recent news out of Newtown, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be alive. My department had a holiday party last Saturday, and I brought my camera along for the occasion. I uploaded the photos to my computer today, and looking at them made me realize something: I love the people I work with, and I love that an excuse for a group dinner was filled with so much life. Even in those moments, I didn't realize how much fun everyone was having. It took me removing myself for a bit and looking at life through the lens of a camera to really make it clear to me.

Plates, wine glasses, strings of lights, silverware. All served as the backdrop for a scene now just a memory. It was my first time wielding my camera in front of a group of people, and my first time using it to really capture moments in time. The graininess of the shots bother me less than I imagined they would; I like the way it reminds me of what it felt like to be there. I like how the colors of clothes are changed by the soft lighting. I like seeing pictures of people laughing, or thinking, or clearly lost in thought or in conversation. I like these things more than simple smiles into the camera, because nothing was paused for the sake of a snapshot.

I see these moments and I cherish them. I think of the children whose lives were taken from them, and it takes my breath away. My heart goes out to all those touched by this tragedy.