When Terry Pratchett (Discworld) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he got his affairs in order and went on a speaking tour raising awareness about the disease, then said goodbye publically. Glenn Campbell was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – he put out a final album and took a final tour and said goodbye (there’s even a film of the tour – he’s in hospice now).
When Oliver Sachs was diagnosed with cancer, he wrote two articles in the Times looking back on his life and saying goodbye.
It seems to me that these were good deaths. They knew what was happening, they accepted it and went with grace and dignity, talking about it on the way, communicating with those strangers who loved them, making death seem like a natural further step along the path or existence. It was comforting to me to see these great people go. It was dignified and meaningful, and when I go, I would most want to go like that – but I would also like to live like that now.
Mr. Sachs showed us all how.
He went much the way he lived – on his own, always reflective, always analytical, yet personal and, in his writing, reader-friendly. He loved and respected his readers and really had something to say. He lived his life on his own terms, with an easy kind of grace – he didn’t seem to struggle with his fate, he didn’t seem filled with doubts and regrets and anger.
Sexually/romantically he was a bit strange, but he didn’t ever seem to make it into an issue or particularly be bothered by it. In his writing he showed us what it was to be human in a way we had never experienced before, but he didn’t try to teach us or change us, he simply told us things we might find interesting to know about ourselves.
Mr. Sachs, you were a role model while you lived and I am grateful that you continued that role into your death. You enriched our lives by the way you lived and your books made our live more meaningful. Thank you, Mr. Sachs, and farewell.
Eric T. Hansen is American author, journalist and satirist, who lives in Germany and today in Berlin for over 20 years. His books: Planet Germany. An expedition into the home of Hawaiian toasts) or the timid superpower: Why Germany must finally grow up. Eric T. Hansen The Hula Ink Blog. Planet Germany. Eine Expedition in die Heimat des Hawaii-Toasts) and Die ängstliche Supermacht: Warum Deutschland endlich erwachsen werden muss. Eric T. Hansen The Hula Ink Blog