The aphasia world has lost one of its foremost and longest advocates.  Dr. Oliver Sacks died Sunday, August 30, 2015.   He was a longstanding member of the Board of Directors of the National Aphasia Association.

We are grateful to Dr. Sacks for his efforts to better understand the neurological changes faced by many survivors; how serious it is to have difficulty communicating.   He opened our eyes to see and understand the world of neuroscience from a different perspective, and this has created new avenues of hope and treatment for neuroscientists and clinicians as well as survivors and their families.

When Dr. Sacks announced in the New York Times that he was terminally ill, he reflected on his life by saying “I am a man of vehement disposition, with violent enthusiasms, and extreme immoderation in all my passions.”  In this statement he aptly described who he was as a person and as a scientist.

He also provided us with a model of facing death with dignity, grace and equanimity.  His quote to the NY Times: “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.  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.”

One of Dr. Sacks’s legacies is that he helped thousands of people to better understand the needs of persons with aphasia.  We, at the NAA, are also committed to assisting people with difficulty communicating to lead meaningful and fulfilled lives. We honor our colleague and will continue our mission to help people with aphasia and to enlist the general public to join us in our efforts.

Darlene Williamson
President, National Aphasia Association