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In the 10 days of my writers’ conference, I kept looking for that one afternoon I could skip, the sprawling block of time when I could sneak away from the crowd and escape, when I could hide in that magnificent church they call “the library” and write, when I could pretend I was alone.

Thank god I had my wits about me and didn’t skip the afternoon with Dr. Richard Selzer.

Dr. Selzer is 84 years old.  He spoke to us for just one hour — one — and we all knew that one hour took everything he had.  The doctor was frail and soft-voiced, unsteady, and yet he was also the most brilliant of all light.  He spoke to us, strangers all, of his mortality, of his wish that he could still write prescriptions so he could end his time here.  He read an unpublished essay — “The Wailing Wall” — 500 words that I, so many days and hours and minutes later, have still not recovered from.

His words left the room bereft of air.

All those hours it took me to get to the east coast and back, all the hours away from my home and family, was worth this one.  How often can you say that?

My heart still aches, thinking of that singular essay, and of Dr. Selzer, alone on that stage.

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