I ran across this bag in Maui on the weekend that Oliver Sacks and Wayne Dyer began their next great adventure. It struck me that they were two men who made their work all about love. Dyer explicitly, Sacks implicitly.
The brilliant Oliver Sacks, a neurologist, a writer, an observer of the first order. Most lay people got to know him from the movie made about one of his books. But what a treat it was to read his essays: intelligent, humane, poetic, even. He was a man in touch with both sides of his brain and the world was richer for it.
The eminently quotable Wayne Dyer, a self-help guru before there was such a thing. A man who put himself out there and changed so many lives. His observations were practical, useful, targeted. He died in Maui, where (coincidentally) I had been all week.
So much about their work has resonated for me over the years, but at this age, when I’m closer than ever to the veil, I consider their thoughts about death and dying.
Dr. Dyer’s family said he had no fear of death and couldn’t wait for “this next adventure.” I would have expected nothing less from him. At 2 a.m., the night after he made his transition, I awakened in Maui and thought about the joy he must have felt upon arrival. He was, after all, an enthusiastic guy. On the flight home the next day I wondered what he found when he crossed over and what would be next for him.
Dr. Sacks admitted to a being a little afraid in an essay a few months ago. He ended his last essay in the New York Times (Aug. 14, 2015) this way:
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.
Such a prolific man: he earned his rest.
Death is the great unknown, and the uncertainty is why we fear it. In recent years, though, I find my attitude toward death moderating. I’m less fearful and more curious. I know it’s the result of my reading and my many conversations with those who have gone before me.
I love that Dr. Dyer saw death as a great adventure. It doesn’t surprise me that Dr. Sacks saw it as a deserved rest. Because I think so many of you can relate to this quote, I’ll let him have the final, profound word, from the essay “My Own Life:”
I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.
Yes, holes that can not be filled.
RIP, good doctors. Thank you for still teaching us,even in death.