Oliver Sacks, the neurology professor who has done such a marvelous job of turning scientific jargon into plain English, has learned, at the age of 81, that he has terminal cancer. What he has written about it should be read by all who doubt the value of their lives. The concluding paragraphs:
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.
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.
"I have loved and been loved." Anybody who can say that has gotten the most out of being "a sentient being on this beautiful planet."
Read the whole thing.