Oliver Sacks, who passed away yesterday, was like a father to me. He was such an individual that he taught me how to stick to my own eccentric self, to like myself, to be and do my best.

During one visit, I remember Oliver kneeling down with his magnifying glass to study the lichen on the steps leading up to our house. Nothing was too small or insignificant to escape his curiosity or sympathy. He was the most empathetic person I know.

Our friendship blossomed through an old-fashioned medium - letter writing (not emails, not texts, but real letters, 130 ot them, thought out over several days, often hand -written on sturdy stationary paper).  "...this, indeed, is how we became truly acquainted," Oliver wrote to me "Most of my books have started as letters to colleagues or friends.. So, for me, the epistolary (in this sense) is an essential element of writing and communicating.. and I suspect that this may also be so with you." 

Whenever I write in the future, I'll imagine I'm writing a letter to Oliver Sacks and, in so doing, my writing will improve, and I'll keep a part of him with me always.

About the Author

Susan Barry by Rosalie Winard

Susan R. Barry, Ph.D., is a professor of neurobiology in the Department of Biological Sciences at Mount Holyoke College and the author of Fixing My Gaze (June, 2009).

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