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Death

  • It's never been my experience that men part with life any more readily at eighty than they do at eighteen.

  • I expect this is what death is like when you meet it. Sort of wildly unfair but inevitable.

  • There is no sound so terrible as a man's sorrow for his own death.

  • Personally, I don't endorse the notion of mortality. It's fine for other folk, but I disapprove of the concept for me and my loved ones.

  • ... you never realize death until you realize love.

  • Death is too much to ask of the living.

  • Death ... obliterates family resemblance as it does personality: there is no affinity between the living and the dead.

  • ... I knew the facts of death before I knew the facts of life. There never was a time when I didn't see the skull beneath the skin.

  • For me, the dead remain dead. If I couldn't believe that, I don't think I could go on living.

  • Matter and death are mortal illusions.

  • Every day I shall put my papers in order and every day I shall say farewell. And the real farewell, when it comes, will only be a small outward confirmation of what has been accomplished within me from day to day.

  • By 'coming to terms with life' I mean: the reality of death has become a definite part of my life; my life has, so to speak, been extended by death, by my looking death in the eye and accepting it, by accepting destruction as part of life and no longer wasting my energies on fear of death or the refusal to acknowledge its inevitability. It sounds paradoxical: by excluding death from our life we cannot live a full life, and by admitting death into our life we enlarge and enrich it.

  • … the death of any loved parent is an incalculable lasting blow. Because no one ever loves you again like that.

  • When one gets near the grave, Margaret, there is a little light from beyond, and many things are seen not seen before.

  • Death is like the setting of the sun. The sun never sets; life never ceases. ... we think the sun sets, and it never ceases shining; we think our friends die, and they never cease living.

  • What we call death was to him only emigration ...

  • Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!

  • Just then, Death finished his prowling through the house on his padded feet and entered the room. He bowed to Mama in his way, and she made her manners and left us to act out our ceremonies over unimportant things.

  • Life would be as insupportable without the prospect of death, as it would be without sleep.

  • ... fear has always been a diminisher of life. Whether bred in the bogs of superstition or clothed in the brocades of dogma and ritual, the specter of death has reduced the living to supplicants, powerless.

  • Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them.

  • It is a sad weakness in us, after all, that the thought of a man's death hallows him anew to us; as if life were not sacred too.

    • George Eliot,
    • "Janet's Repentance," Scenes of Clerical Life ()
  • Surprise will be my last emotion, not fear.

  • Why is it harder to think of his going to nothing than to think of his coming from nothing? One direction is just as dark as the other.

  • I live now on borrowed time, waiting in the anteroom for the summons that will inevitably come. And then — I go on to the next thing, whatever it is. One doesn't luckily have to bother about that.

  • Eternal death has worked like a warrior rat, with diabolical sense of duty, to gnaw my bottom. Everything is finished now.

  • I think that the dying pray at the last not 'please,' but 'thank you,' as a guest thanks his host at the door. Falling from airplanes the people are crying thank you, thank you, all down the air; and the cold carriages draw up for them on the rocks.

  • Possibly everyone now dead considered his own death as a freak accident, a mistake. Some bad luck caused it. Every enterprising man jack of them, and every sunlit vigorous woman and child, too, who had seemed so alive and pleased, was cold as a meat hook, and new chattering people trampled their bones unregarding, and rubbed their hands together and got to work improving their prospects till their own feet slipped and they went under themselves ... Every place was a tilting edge.

  • ... death must no longer be either the penalty for prosperity or the consolation of misery. God did not destine it to be either the punishment or the compensation for life ...

  • I know for sure / that at the end, / the playful stranger who appears / is not death / but love.

    • Kathleen Norris,
    • "Three Small Songs for the Muse," in Marilyn Sewell, ed., Cries of the Spirit ()
  • 'On our father's side we live till eighty or ninety, but on our mother's side we die early.' Perhaps this is the trouble with so many of us — on one side we die early.

  • ... the emotions at death, as at birth, are instinctive and primitive.

  • I've seen death and I didn't like it.

    • Djuna Barnes,
    • in Hank O'Neal, Life Is Painful, Nasty and Short ... ()
  • ... death ... is not a great affair! Think — it happens once only — to each of us — as birth does. What do you know about being born? that — and no more — will you know about the act of death.

  • If we really believed that those who are gone from us were as truly alive as ourselves, we could not invest the subject with such awful depth of gloom as we do. If we would imbue our children with distinct faith in immortality, we should never speak of people as dead, but as passed into another world. We should speak of the body as a cast-off garment, which the wearer had outgrown; consecrated indeed by the beloved being that used it for a season, but of no value within itself.

  • Death will be to him merely passing out of one room filled with friends into another room still more full of friends.

  • Who dares to be intellectual in the presence of death?

  • ... an absolute condition of all successful living, whether for an individual or a nation, is the acceptance of death.

  • How strange — a daughter watching the mother who had given her life lose her own. Is that what it's all about?

  • Each time a friend dies, the present becomes the past, in an instant.

  • We do not take much warning of our own mortality in seeing others die, nor of our own weakness in seeing others break down: we think we feel the springs of life stronger in us.

  • She wasn't afraid of dying, for to die is nothing in itself, no more than cutting a final wisdom tooth.

  • Tears are sometimes an inappropriate response to death. When life has been lived completely honestly, completely successfully, or just completely, the correct response to death's perfect punctuation mark is a smile.

  • ... all deaths are one's own.

  • I find when death comes, it is usually a woman that is called for.

  • [On the death of her nine-year-old:] Hundreds of times you start to put on their place at the table, or plan for clothes — she will have this; but the keenest of all is when it is stormy, and you think this one is safe here or there, for a moment it flashes in your mind — that she isn't in yet.

  • ... he could now think about her calmly, recognizing that her course was run and that she would not have wished to outlive herself.

  • He hoped he would die before the party. As a solver of problems it is a fact that death has been over-rated.

  • The world, with all its beauty and adventure, its richness and variety, is darkened by cruelty. Death, if it ends the loveliness, the adventure, ends also that. Death balances the picture.

  • There's ways and ways of dyin'. Some is took, and some takes French leave, and others is 'elped out of life ...

  • There is one vast human experience that confronts us so formidably that we cannot pretend to overlook it. There is no solution to death. There is no means whatever whereby you or I, by taking thought, can solve this difficulty in such a manner that it no longer exists.

  • I am not ready to die, / But I am learning to trust death / As I have trusted life.

    • May Sarton,
    • "Gestalt at Sixty," Selected Poems of May Sarton ()
  • Now we have buried the face we never knew, / Now we have silenced the voice we never heard, / Now he is dead we look on him with awe ...

    • May Sarton,
    • "Easter, 1968," Selected Poems of May Sarton ()
  • And one cold starry night / Whatever your belief / The phoenix will take flight / Over the seas of grief / To sing her thrilling song / To stars and waves and sky / For neither old nor young / The phoenix does not die.

  • Inside my mother's death / I lay and could not breathe ...

  • Death does frame a person and somehow it is the good that stays.

    • May Sarton,
    • 1975, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Among the Usual Days ()
  • For rain it hath a friendly sound / To one who's six feet under ground; / And scarce the friendly voice or face, / A grave is such a quiet place.

  • Down you mongrel, Death! / Back into your kennel!

  • All your lovely words are spoken. / Once the ivory box is broken, / Beats the golden bird no more.

  • Heap not on this mound / Roses that she loved so well; / Why bewilder her with roses, / That she cannot see or smell?

  • Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.

  • Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave / Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind; / Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave. / I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

  • I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his pay-roll.

  • The dead are the only people to have permanent dwellings.

    • Rita Mae Brown,
    • "For Those of Us Working for a New World," Songs to a Handsome Woman ()
  • I don't want to die. I think death is a greatly overrated experience.

  • I still miss those I loved who are no longer with me but I find I am grateful for having loved them. The gratitude has finally conquered the loss.

  • Dying's not so bad. At least I won't have to answer the telephone.

  • Death is a greatly overrated experience. I hated Mother's and I'm not looking forward to my own. Apart from the sorrow there are the bills to be paid. Nobody dies for free.

  • The wrong you have done is very quiet: just / Not being there.

  • ... the fear of death is that you are dying too soon. Nobody wants to, but at the point that you die you can pray that you are no longer the same person. I pray that when I am about to die I will not be the same person that I am now.

    • Audre Lorde,
    • in Nina Winter, Interview With the Muse ()
  • Death not merely ends life, it also bestows upon it a silent completeness, snatched from the hazardous flux to which all things human are subject.

  • So long as your death is a leaving / it will never be my last.

  • I have survived / the gifts still puzzling me / as in the voice of my departing mother / ... / teaching me how to die insisting / death is not a disease.

  • Perhaps men should think twice before making widowhood our only path to power.

  • Death sanctifies. It's solemn enough to make its own shrine, where it happens.

  • Pain and Oblivion make mankind afraid to die; but all creatures are afraid of the one, none but mankind afraid of the other.

    • Margaret Cavendish,
    • "Aphorisms," The Cavalier and His Lady: Selected From the Works of the First Duke and Duchess of Newcastle ()
  • Let death between us be as naught, / A dried and vanished stream; / Your joy be the reality, / Our suffering life the dream.

    • Harriet Beecher Stowe,
    • "The Other World," in Edmund Clarence Stedman, An American Anthology 1787-1900 ()
  • He left a world he was weary of with the cool indifference you quit a dirty inn, to continue your journey to a place where you hope for better accommodation.

  • Death and taxes and childbirth! There's never any convenient time for any of them!

  • I have nothing against undertakers personally. It's just that I wouldn't want one to bury my sister.

  • I say Come Back and you do / Not do what I want. / The train unrolls its track and sends its sound forward.

  • Why are you not where you belong? / A black hat on a hook says nothing. / Ashes mirror ashes / In a mirroring window.

  • You, singularly you. And gone / Invisible.

  • A child, then a man, now a feather / Passing through a furious fire / Called time.

  • It was the season of quiet: / The quiet of death. / The uneasy quiet / After the gasp in the middle / Of the terrible, terrible movie / That someone had made and kept showing.

  • To say you loved a person. / To say that person no longer exists. / A tragic flawed fate going on and on and on.

  • Cry for joy in April, / Cry for death in fall. / Birth's an open gateway, / But death's a solid wall.

  • Sister, dear sister, come home and help me die.

  • When death threatens, when a good-bye is faced, how one searches the past for images, begins to shoal up the past for future use.

  • I believe, in spite of everything, we all half expected to escape. More than half expected, believed completely. Thought it would come to everyone else, but pass us by. Without us, without me, how's anything else to exist?

    • Jessamyn West,
    • "The Linden Trees," Collected Stories of Jessamyn West ()
  • I shall not die of a cold. I shall die of having lived.

  • I hope I shall never lose the recollection of all I heard about her illness, and of the little I myself witnessed before I looked upon the clay-cold form, and pressed my lips on the altered brow of that once bright and lovely creature! Oh! it is indeed an awful change, and a fearful termination to look to, and to prepare for. It is one thing to hear of death, and another to behold its awful effects!

    • Charlotte Elliott,
    • letter (1838), Leaves From the Unpublished Journals, Letters, and Poems of Charlotte Elliott ()
  • Oh, weep not for her! she has taken her flight, / From the valley of tears to the land of delight; / Oh, weep not for her! she is ransomed and blest; / Her warfare is over, her spirit at rest.

    • Charlotte Elliott,
    • "Epitaph," Leaves From the Unpublished Journals, Letters, and Poems of Charlotte Elliott ()
  • One of us two must sometime face existence / Alone with memories that but sharpen pain. / ... / One of us two shall find all life, all beauty, / All joy on earth, a tale forever done; / Shall know henceforth that life means only duty. / O God! O God! have pity on that one!

  • I think of death as some delightful journey / That I shall take when all my tasks are done ...

  • Oh, dark, inevitable and awful day, / When one of us must go and one must stay!

  • Death transfigured her. In a matter of minutes I saw the beauty of her young days reassert itself on her blurred careworn face. It was like something in music, the re-establishment of the original key, the return of the theme. Don't think I am unhappy and alone, dear William. I am not. I am in a new country and she is the compass I travel by.

  • The special quality one feels for the dead, he thought, is that no action is possible any longer.

  • ... I am unable, mentally incapable, of relating the dead thing, the broken body refusing to divulge why or where the occupant has gone, to the thing that was alive.

  • I romanced internally about early death till it was too late to die early ...

  • There is no death to those who perfectly love, — only disappearance, which in time may be borne.

    • Harriet Martineau,
    • 1840, in Elisabeth Sanders Arbuckle, Harriet Martineau's Letters to Fanny Wedgwood ()
  • Life on the streets killed you slow, but sometimes people or the weather saw that it happened a lot faster.

  • Death's not a separation or alteration or parting it's just a one-handled door.

    • Stevie Smith,
    • "Mrs. Simpkins," A Good Time Was Had by All ()
  • Come Death, you know you must come when you're called / Although you're a god.

    • Stevie Smith,
    • "Dido's Farewell to Aeneas," Not Waving But Drowning ()
  • If there wasn't death, I think you couldn't go on.

  • Ah me, sweet Death, you are the only god / Who comes as a servant when he is called, you know, / Listen then to this sound I make, it is sharp, / Come Death. Do not be slow.

    • Stevie Smith,
    • "Come Death (ii)," Scorpion and Other Poems ()
  • He wrote The I and the It / He wrote The It and Me / He died at Marienbad / And now we are all at sea.

    • Stevie Smith,
    • "On the Death of a German Philosopher," Collected Poems ()
  • This is the simplest of all thoughts, that Death must come when we call, although he is a god.

  • I love Death because he breaks the human pattern and frees us from pleasures too prolonged as well as from the pains of this world. It is pleasant, too, to remember that Death lies in our hands; he must come if we call him. ... I think if there were no death, life would be more than flesh and blood could bear ...

  • I've liked life well enough, but I reckon I'll like death even better as soon as I've gotten used to the feel of it. ... I shouldn't be amazed to find it less lonely than life after I'm once safely settled.

  • Nobody, not even the old, not even the despairing, wished to come to an end in time or in eternity.

  • Death. An instantaneous state, without past or future. Indispensable for entering eternity.

  • The romantic treatment of death asserts that people were made singular, made more interesting, by their illnesses.

  • Death? Why this fuss about death. Use your imagination, try to visualize a world without death! ... Death is the essential condition of life, not an evil.

  • It was a quieter matter, he thought, for one advanced in years; not that death comes, but that life goes.

  • It is not that death comes, but that life leaves.

  • Death is terrifying because it is so ordinary. It happens all the time.

  • Death builds bridges / as long as we still hear / the living words, the song.

  • What if her father and mother could not recognize her now if they saw her? In her flesh they slept serenely, loved and loving, not as remembered faces, nor in any arrested act or posture, but as her blood running softly in her veins, as the beat of her heart and the drawing of her breath.

  • We are born knowing death.

    • Katherine Anne Porter,
    • "Noon Wine: The Sources" (1956), The Collected Essays and Occasional Writings ()
  • Death cancels our engagements, but it does not affect the consequences of our acts in life.

  • Death is loneliness in its purest form ...

  • I had a vision ... of being found on the pavement by some passerby, with a small punctuation mark ending my sentence of life.

  • Death was a beginning and not an end; it was the morning of the spirit. Tired bodies lay down to sleep and their souls wakened to the morning, rested; the first fruits of them that slept.

  • But the body was so little a part of him that its final stillness seemed nothing of importance. He was half out of it anyway and death was only a slipping out of it altogether and being at last what he always was, a spirit. We buried the pearly shell upon the mountain top.

  • ... it is necessary that we should all have a little of the will to die, because otherwise we would find the performance of our biological duty of death too difficult.

  • I postpone death by living, by suffering, by error, by risking, by giving, by losing.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1933, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 1 ()
  • People living deeply have no fear of death.

    • Anaïs Nin,
    • 1935, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, vol. 2 ()
  • But now there was the new feeling — the last new feeling which we shall any of us experience in this world — that death was not only close at hand, but inevitable.

  • You think death is any better an excuse for desertion than any other?

  • Josephine had had a moment of absolute terror at the cemetery, while the coffin was lowered, to think that she and Constantia had done this thing without asking his permission. What would father say when he found out? For he was bound to find out sooner or later. He always did. 'Buried. You two girls had me buried!'

  • Can one do nothing for the dead? And for a long time the answer had been — Nothing!

  • That is the fearful part of having been near death. One knows how easy it is to die. The barriers that are up for everybody else are down for you, and you've only to slip through.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • 1919, in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Letters of Katherine Mansfield, vol. 1 ()
  • Yes, my mother's death is a terrible sorrow to me. I feel — do you know what I mean — the silence of it so. She was more alive than anyone I have ever known.

    • Katherine Mansfield,
    • 1918, in J. Middleton Murry, ed., The Letters of Katherine Mansfield, vol. 1 ()
  • If you wish to live, you must first attend your own funeral.

  • The straight sunny tombstones looked sociable, fresh wreaths were laid on the breasts of the graves. You could almost see the dead sitting up holding their flowers, like invalids on a visiting-day, waiting to hear the music. Only the very new dead, under raw earth with no tombstones, lay flat in despair ...

  • People talk as if the act of death made a complete change in the nature, as well as in the condition of man. Death is the vehicle to another state of being, but possesses no power to qualify us for that state. In conveying us to a new world it does not give us a new heart.

  • It must become a right of every person to die of old age. And if we secure this right for ourselves, we can, coincidentally, assure it for the planet.

    • Alice Walker,
    • "Longing to Die of Old Age," Living by the Word ()
  • Only dead people need loud music, you know.

  • Death grows friendlier as we grow older.

  • ... death — a passage outside the range of imagination, but within the range of experience.

  • ... the encounter with death is the great turning-point in the lives of those who live on.

  • ... you are dipped up from the great river of consciousness, and death only pours you back.

  • Death sits with his key in my lock. / Not one day is taken for granted.

    • Anne Sexton,
    • 1971, in Linda Gray Sexton, ed., Words for Dr. Y.: Uncollected Poems ()
  • The dead make rules, and I obey. / I, too, shall be dead some day.

  • Life, struck sharp on death, / Makes awful lightning.

  • ... the Dead ... love still.

  • To die before one fears to die may be a boon.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Letters of Emily Dickinson, vol. 3 ()
  • 'Tis sweet to know that stocks will stand / When we with Daisies lie — / That Commerce will continue — / And Trades as briskly fly --.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1858, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • Looking at Death, is Dying — ...

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1861, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • After great pain, a formal feeling comes — / ... / This is the Hour of Lead — / Remembered, if outlived, / As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow — / First — Chill — then Stupor — then the letting go — .

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1862, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • Because I could not stop for Death — / He kindly stopped for me — / The Carriage held but just Ourselves — / And Immortality.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1863, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • The Bustle in a House / The Morning after Death / Is solemnest of industries / Enacted upon earth — / The Sweeping up the Heart / And putting Love away / We shall not want to use again / Until Eternity.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1866, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • Pass to thy Rendezvous of Light, / Pangless except for us — / Who slowly ford the Mystery / Which thou has leaped across!

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1883, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • And you never say / Leave me / since the dead do not like being alone.

  • God have mercy, that such a young man should have to chew the black earth!

  • ... that darkest of syllables, death.

  • Grandaddy, Grandaddy don't cry. She is not there, she promised me. On the last day, she said she would go back to when she first heard music, a little girl on the road of the village where she was born. She promised me. It is a wedding and they dance, while the flutes so joyous and vibrant tremble in the air. Leave her there, Grandaddy, it is all right. She promised me. Come back, come back and help her poor body to die.

  • If death were the exception and not the rule, and we were not so swiftly to follow, these separations would be intolerably sad. We know no more of our next change of life than we knew of this before we were born into it; but that which we call death is merely change, who can doubt?

    • Celia Thaxter,
    • in Annie Fields and Rose Lamb, eds., Letters of Celia Thaxter ()
  • ... it is rather depressing to think that one will still be oneself when one is dead, but I dare say one won't be so critical then.

  • ... knowledge of our own mortality is the greatest gift God ever gives us.

  • There are those of us who believe that under certain conditions the cruelest thing you can do to people you love is to force them to live. There are those of us who define living not by whether the heart beats and the lungs lift but whether the spirit is there, whether the music box plays.

  • ... the past is not gone — nor is Gertrude ...

    • Alice B. Toklas,
    • 1955, in Edward Burns, ed,. Staying On Alone: Letters of Alice B. Toklas ()
  • Death is what takes place within us when we look upon others not as gift, blessing, or stimulus but as threat, danger, competition.

  • ... death's a cruel note, / Set in a mortal throat.

  • My grandmother refused to concede that any member of the family died of natural causes. An uncle's cancer in middle age occurred because all the suitcases fell off the luggage rack onto him when he was in his teens, and so forth. Death was an acquired characteristic.

  • Could it be that if we really understood death we would see it as the deepest healing of all? Is death the great healing? Is our life on earth partially a wound that death finally heals?

  • In death the friend, the kind companion lies, / And in one death what various comfort dies!

    • Phillis Wheatley,
    • "To a Lady and Her Children" (1773), Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley ()
  • Another world, / Its walls are thin, / But, oh, I cannot / Enter in. / I feel its touch, / I breathe its air, / How long before / I enter there?

  • One reason you are stricken when your parents die is that the audience you've been aiming at all your life — shocking it, pleasing it — has suddenly left the theater.

  • Like all children I had taken my father for granted. Now that I had lost him, I felt an emptiness that could never be filled. But I did not let myself cry, believing as a Muslim that tears pull a spirit earthward and won't let it be free.

  • Death, in the final analysis, is only the easiest and quickest means to go back to God. If only we could make people understand that we come from God and that we have to go back to Him!

    • Mother Teresa,
    • in Becky Benenate and Joseph Durepos, eds., No Greater Love ()
  • To most the end comes as naturally and simply as sleep.

  • Death, the stern sculptor, with a touch / No earthly power can stay, / Changes to marble in an hour / The beautiful, pale clay.

    • Louisa May Alcott,
    • on the death of her sister May, in Eva Munson Smith, Woman in Sacred Song ()
  • Sleep that no pain shall wake, / Night that no morn shall break.

  • When I am dead, my dearest, / Sing no sad songs for me; / Plant thou no roses at my head, / Nor shady cypress tree: / Be the green grass above me / With showers and dewdrops wet; / And if thou wilt, remember, / And if thou wilt, forget.

  • ... death makes us all equal ...

    • Madame de Sévigné,
    • 1690, Letters of Madame de Sévigné to Her Daughter and Her Friends, vol. 9 ()
  • ... when the day comes that I kneel by your bedside and see your eyes close, or you kneel by mine, it must be that the one who waits behind shall know the parting is not all.

  • ... death is always sudden however long one waits.

  • For watching death, and above all, after death; not death in battle, but death after battle, brings one to certain indifferences that are also a form of death.

  • Death did not come to my mother / Like an old friend. / She was a mother, and she must / Conceive him.

  • ... nobody fought death so hard as a mother did, who left children behind her to root-pig-or-die-pore in a hard old world.

  • It would be too lonesome for them to be buried away off here by her house, six miles from nowhere; the dead like company too.

  • You're dead already, and we never talked. ... Now, really dead. Literally and finally. I've mourned you so many years, I wonder, now, what it will be like to start again.

  • Fortunately, there is more to life than death. There is for one thing, fiction. A thousand thousand characters to be sent marching out into the world to divert time from its forward gallop to the terrible horizon.

  • Take things as they come. Take things as they are. What does it matter? There's one end to everything.

  • No one should be allowed to give back the gift of life, unless they are very old and full of tears, when the body outlives the spirit, when they should be allowed to join the others who've already gone.

  • Extending life with heroic measures when the end is in sight is caused by our cultural resistance to death. Families, individuals and our healthcare system are burdened by costs and needless suffering due to an antiquated attitude that death is some kind of failure. The reality is that death is a natural, unavoidable and sometimes welcome part of the life cycle.

  • Always in a house of death, Virgie was thinking, all the stories come evident, show forth from the person, become a part of the public domain. Not the dead's story, but the living's.

  • I think it is not the fear of death that saddens us but the fear of unfulfillment. We long desperately for something we have not found — or for something we have found and lost again.

  • This morning / As I watch people pick flowers in the garden / ... My heart of a sudden beats strong / Fiercely thrashing my tumultuous chest / Withered are my flowers, grown / Under the watering flow of sweat. / ... Oh my flowers / By His side you are blooms / Be at peace in the embrace of His love / Open hearted we release you / Farewell my flowers / At heaven's gate we will meet.

    • Rosni Idham,
    • "Garden Flowers: To My Children, Victims of Tsunami," in Tsunami Notebook: Poems Washed Up From the Sea of Tears ()
  • I don't want to die. But I want to be dead.

    • Jean Ingelow,
    • in Anonymous, Some Recollections of Jean Ingelow and Her Early Friends ()
  • ... one thing about death — / it's hereditary.

  • We're all cremated equal.

    • Jane Ace,
    • in Christopher H. Sterling, Encyclopedia of Radio, vol. 1. ()
  • The company you keep at death is, of all things, most dependent on chance.

  • I have faced Death. I have been caught in the wild weed tangles of Her hair, seen the gleam of her jade eyes. I will go when it is time — no choice! — but now I want life.

  • It's the possibility that when you're dead you might still go on hurting that bothers me.

  • ... Americans think that death is optional. They may not admit it, and will probably laugh if it's suggested; but it's a state of mind — a kind of national leitmotiv if you like — that colors everything they do. There's a nagging suspicion that you can delay death (or — who knows? — avoid it altogether) if you really try. This explains the common preoccupation with health, aerobics, prune juice, plastic surgery, and education.

  • Do you suppose that / when grandma dies / more of her stays than goes?

  • Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death.

  • When I / die / I'm sure / I will have a / Big Funeral / Curiosity / seekers / coming to see / if I / am really / Dead / or just / trying to make / Trouble.

    • Mari Evans,
    • "The Rebel," I Am a Black Woman ()
  • When trembling limbs refuse their weight, / And films, slow gathering, dim the sight, / And clouds obscure the mental light, — / 'Tis nature's precious boon to die.

  • Thy peace is sealed, thy rest is sure, / My sorrows are to come ...

  • The timing of death, like the ending of a story, gives a changed meaning to what preceded it.

  • Curious, how each one of us secretly carries his private cemetery around with him and watches it filling up with ever new graves. The last one to be our own ...

  • Oh, my dear! never does one feel oneself so utterly helpless as in trying to speak comfort for great bereavement. I will not try it. Time is the only comforter for the loss of a mother.

    • Jane Welsh Carlyle,
    • letter to Thomas Carlyle on the death of his mother (1853), in James Anthony Froude, ed., Letters and Memorials of Jane Welsh Carlyle, vol. 2 ()
  • I rebel against death, yet I know that it is how I respond to death's inevitability that is going to make me less or more fully alive.

  • In a corner of the churchyard grew a plantation of white violets, enormously plump and prosperous-looking. ... I saw the dead stretched out under me in the earth, feeding these flowers with a thin milk drawn from their bones.

  • I don't fear death because I don't fear anything I don't understand. When I start to think of it, I order a massage and it goes away.

  • There is so little that one can do for the dead!

  • Unless I write things down I never know / what I think, no less feel, about the world. / ... / In short I don't know I'm alive unless / I'm writing as I'll only be convinced / — when I am scribbled on some stony epitaph — / that I am gone ... and the rest is silence.

  • And every year a day as yet unknown / which I won't be here to enjoy goes by, / which is why now I celebrate each one.

  • If I had my life over again I should form the habit of nightly composing myself to thoughts of death. I would practise, as it were, the remembrance of death. There is no other practice which so intensifies life. Death, when it approaches, ought not to take one by surprise. It should be part of the full expectancy of life. Without an ever-present sense of death life is insipid. You might as well live on the whites of eggs.

  • Death is the opening — and the closing — of a Door.

  • Oh! how many times we die before death!

    • Julie de Lespinasse,
    • 1773, in Katharine Prescott Wormeley, trans., Letters of Mlle. de Lespinasse ()
  • End-of-life decision-making should be a civil right. There is no rational, secular underpinning for laws denying this right. They are based solely on doctrinal beliefs that suffering has spiritual merit and that only some imagined god can determine when one's life is to end. Our bodies belong to us, not to the church and not to the state.

  • Listen: being dead is not worse than being alive. It is different, though. You could say the view is larger.

  • ... when someone you love dies, he becomes your enemy; he fights you tooth and nail from a hidden position; he successfully raids what small provisions you have gathered to keep yourself going.

  • You do not die from being born, nor from having lived, nor from old age. You die from something. ... There is no such thing as a natural death: nothing that happens to a man is ever natural, since his presence calls the world into question. All men must die: but for every man his death is an accident and, even if he knows it and consents to it, an unjustifiable violation.

  • When someone you love dies you pay for the sin of outliving her with a thousand piercing regrets.

  • Every time a man dies, a child dies too, and an adolescent and a young man as well; everyone weeps for the one who was dear to him.

  • The only thing I want from my money is to die in comfort.

  • There is no Death, / What seems so is transition.

  • But I'm gettin' ready to go. How am I doin' it? I'm layin' aside every weight and a sin that does so easily beset me and I'm gettin' light for the flight.

  • Call off your black dog, death, / it cannot bark me down: / I'll travel past these wounds / and speak another breath!

  • Weave grasses for their childhood : who will never see / love or disaster or take sides against decay ...

  • ... the world is not a place but the vastness of the soul. And the soul is nothing more than love, limitless, endless, all that moves us toward knowing what is true. I once thought love was supposed to be nothing but bliss. I now know it is also worry and grief, hope and trust. And believing in ghosts — that's believing that love never dies. If people we love die, then they are lost only to our ordinary senses. If we remember, we can find them anytime with our hundred secret senses.

  • The dead can become too important, just by dying.

  • There's no privacy for the violently dead.

  • The wages of sin are death, but of course, with taxes taken out, it'd just be kind of a tired feeling.

  • Death is a dramatic accomplishment of absence; language may be almost as effective.

  • Do not stand at my grave and weep / I am not there; I do not sleep. / I am a thousand winds that blow, / I am the diamond glints on snow, / I am the sun on ripened grain, / I am the gentle autumn rain. / When you awaken in the morning's hush / I am the swift uplifting rush / Of quiet birds in circled flight. / I am the soft stars that shine at night. / Do not stand at my grave and cry, / I am not there; I did not die.

    • Mary Frye,
    • "Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep, " unpublished poem ()
  • When I am dead and over me bright April / Shakes out her rain-drenched hair, / Tho' you should lean above me broken-hearted, / I shall not care.

  • Death is the advertisement, at the end of an autobiography, wherein people discover its virtues.

  • For I have scattered seed / Shall ripen at the end; / Old Age holds more than I shall need, / Death more than I can spend.

  • To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.

  • Death must be got through as life had been, just somehow.

  • It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.

  • In health, in the bustle of living, it was easy to believe in heaven and a life to come. But when the blow fell, and those you loved passed into the great Silence, where you could not get at them, or they at you, then doubts, aching doubts took possession of one.

  • A little time separates us from those who depart — a time of tears, a time of sadness and solitude; but, that over, we go to rejoin them and to enjoy with them the society of the blessed. Oh, how sweetly the heart rests in this immortal hope!

    • Eugénie de Guérin,
    • letter (1835), in Guillaume S. Trébutien, ed., Letters of Eugénie de Guérin ()
  • Yesterday, at Andillac, a little child went to heaven. If I were a little child I should like to follow it, but when one gets old, if one could help it, one would never die. Then it is that the threads that once attached us to earth become cables.

    • Eugénie de Guérin,
    • letter (1831), in Guillaume S. Trébutien, ed., Letters of Eugénie de Guérin ()
  • Poets never die — nor friends either, I assure you, monsieur. Neither death nor silence in reality changes the soul.

    • Eugénie de Guérin,
    • letter (1841), in Guillaume S. Trébutien, ed., Letters of Eugénie de Guérin ()
  • We have only one way to be born and many ways to die.

  • Death does not interest me — not even my own.

    • Colette,
    • 1928, in Enid McLeod, trans., Break of Day ()
  • Yet though I cannot see thee more / 'Tis still a comfort to have seen, / And though thy transient life is o'er / 'Tis sweet to think that thou has been; / To think a soul so near divine / Within a form so angel fair / united to a heart like thine / Has gladdened once our humble sphere.

    • Anne Brontë,
    • "A Reminiscence," The Works of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë, vol. 8 ()
  • There is something disorderly about the death of a young person. In a universe disturbed by so much over which we have no control, an untimely tragedy rattles the teeth of our already shaken confidence. We want to domesticate death, fight it on our own turf, in familiar rooms with shades drawn evenly, top sheets turned back, and a circle of hushed voices closing in.

  • ... Death was but the unfolding of a long bud-bound flower; the bursting forth of a rock-hampered fountain.

  • How shall we know it is the last good-by?

  • ... every death diminishes us, but those that leave differences unresolved and things unsaid are the most painful of all.

  • It is not dying, but living, that is a preparation for Death.

  • Working-class families in the north of England used to hear the 1611 Bible regularly at church and at home ... for us, the language didn't seem too difficult. I especially liked 'the quick and the dead' — you really get a feel for the difference if you live in a house with mice and a mousetrap.

  • Even death after a long illness is without warning. The moment you had prepared for so carefully took you by storm. The troops broke through the window and snatched the body and the body is gone. ... Death reduces us to the baffled logic of a small child. If yesterday why not today?

  • ... only Death could teach us love / By Death we shall grow wise.

  • O Death, the loveliness that is in thee, / Could the world know, the world would cease to be.

    • Mary Emily Bradley,
    • "In Death," in Edmund Clarence Stedman, An American Anthology 1787-1900 ()
  • ... death is a door life opens ...

  • I think death has a right to its own courage and dignity and self-respect.

  • I thought death would be a final leap out of the old tire swing into shimmering Bald Eagle Lake after a final push from long-dead Aunt Ethel, godmother and childhood pal.

  • For the world is founded and built up on death, and the reality of death is neither to be questioned nor feared. Death is a dark dream, but it is not a nightmare. It is mankind's lack of pity, mankind's fatal propensity for torture, that is the nightmare.

  • Even when her husband died it ... was ... not that Mrs. Marston did not feel it. She did, as deeply as her nature could. But she felt it, as a well-padded boy feels a whacking, through layers of convention.

  • The only way through death is death itself.

  • ... death, this inescapable mark of human finitude, is in fact the experience that raises all the questions about infinity.

  • The mature, forty-five-year-old woman, quite experienced in matters of life and death, knows that it was 'for the best,' but Daddy's girl, who hung onto his belt and danced fox trots on the tops of his shoes, cannot accept that Daddy is not here anymore.

  • ... her mother was no longer there. Susanna did not think of it as a death, but as a fading away, like a pattern on washed cloth. It was the continuation of something that had been happening all her life anyway.

  • The road to death is a lonely highway, and longer than it apears, even when it leads straight down from the scaffold, by way of a rope; and it's a dark road, with never any moon shining on it, to light your way.

  • ... it is only in statistics that people die by the millions. Each person dies individually, in his own predicament.

  • [On death:] It comes as a surprising thing. You expect it in one way or another. You think you are prepared for it, but when it does come it seems unexpected after all.

  • Odd how, when your friend has died, he is complete. Whatever he was going to be is finished. He will not change. ... Perhaps that was as close as anyone came to life after death: to be remembered.

  • It is a pity we do not die when our lives are finished.

  • Death is dreadfully personal, terribly important to oneself, and so unimportant to the rest of the world.

  • We all owe life a death, an inevitable death which we can meet. But the unnecessary death that wastes life denies all consolation.

  • The most degrading of human passions is the fear of death. It tears away the restraints and the conventions which alone make social life possible to man; it reveals the brute in him which underlies them all. In the desperate hand-to-hand struggle for life there is no element of nobility. He who is engaged upon it throws aside honor, he throws aside self-respect, he throws aside all that would make victory worth having — he asks for nothing but bare life.

  • Dying, we saw, was simply change taken to points of mocking extremity ...

  • Death is sometimes not the worst situation you can be in.

    • Nancy Cruzan,
    • to her sister, in Alida Brill, Nobody's Business: Paradoxes of Privacy ()
  • There is much precedent in the family for pretending that the dead have not died but are living in other cities. Practicing a form of emotional etiquette, it is considered good form to spare elderly relatives sad news. Whenever we attend family reunions, the uncles give me a quick refresher course in who's officially dead and who's not. It would be helpful to maintain a cross-index, because some elderly aunts know while others don't know. ... (When a cousin actually did move to California, no one believed it — the other cousins all believed this was a euphemism for the much-longer journey.)

  • I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; I saw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain.

  • I think sometimes — do not we all? — that perhaps the present year is my last year and that all my busyness is foolish.

  • ... without convulsion or sigh, the frail tenement was left vacant of its spiritual inhabitant.

  • Death is the ultimate reality of loss.

  • That is what they call being reconciled to die. They call it reconciled when pain has strummed a symphony of suffering back and forth across you, up and down, round and round you until each little fibre is worn tissue-thin with aching. And when you are lying beaten, and buffeted, battered and broken — pain goes out, joins hands with Death and comes back to dance, dance, dance, stamp, stamp, stamp down on you until you give up.

    • Marita Bonner,
    • "A Possible Triad on Black Notes" (1933), Frye Street and Environs ()
  • Love is a bridge — even across — death.

  • The dead don't bear a grudge nor seek a blessing. The dead don't rest uneasy. Only the living.

  • Death is the gentlest of the world's replies.

    • Rose Hawthorne Lathrop,
    • "Give Me Not Tears," in Edmund Clarence Stedman, An American Anthology 1787-1900 ()
  • ... it is not good to repudiate the dead because then they do not leave you alone, they are like dogs that bark intermittently at night.

  • University students are rarely able to cope with universals and death is the most embarrassing universal.

  • Death in its way comes just as much of a surprise as birth.

  • Death is the great gamer with a sleeve of tricks.

  • Oh, write of me, not 'Died in bitter pains,' / But 'Emigrated to another star!'

  • My body, eh? Friend Death, how now? / Why all this tedious pomp of writ? / Thou hast reclaimed it sure and slow / For half a century bit by bit.

  • The success or failure of a life, as far as posterity goes, seems to lie in the more or less luck of seizing the right moment of escape.

    • Alice James,
    • 1891, in Anna Robeson Burr, Alice James ()
  • He is not dead! he only left / A precious robe of clay behind, / To draw a robe of love and light / Around his disembodied mind.

  • If Fate should say, 'Thy course is run,' / It would not make me sad; / All that I wished to do is done, / All that I would have, had.

    • Laurence Hope,
    • "The Court of Pomegranates," Stars of the Desert ()
  • The compulsion to rescue willy-nilly those who are drowning strikes to the heart of our freedoms. I am all for fishing out of the water those who fall in, but let us respect those who have thrown themselves in.

  • Death is no enemy, but the foundation of gratitude, sympathy, and art. Of all life's pleasures, only love owes no debt to death.

  • We never know how dead we are until we come to die.

  • Life changes fast. / Life changes in the instant. / You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.

  • Death cannot alter facts — only feelings.

  • Grieve not that I die young. Is it not well / To pass away ere life hath lost its brightness?

  • Death is not cold and frightful. Death is the sun in all its powerful intensity.

  • ... there ain't no use in dyin' 'fore yer time. Lots of folks is walkin' 'round jes' as dead as they'll ever be.

  • It'll be with me like it was with Uncle Ned's ole ox, I reckon; he kep' a-goin' an' a-goin' till he died a-standin' up, an' even then they had to push him over.

  • There are always two deaths, the real one and the one people know about.

  • You couldn't find nobody deader, not if you'd sarched for a week. Why, door nails, and Julius Caesar, and things o' that description, would ha' been lively compared with your poor ma when I see her. Lively! that's what they'd ha' been.

  • When I die, people will say it is the best thing for me. It is because they know it is the worst. They want to avoid the feeling of pity. As though they were the people most concerned!

  • Every human being has the right to choose his own end.

  • There is only one human nobility left in me. I am not afraid to die.

    • Bessie Head,
    • 1971, in Randolph Vigne, ed., A Gesture of Belonging: Letters From Bessie Head 1965-1979 ()
  • I fall and burst beneath the sacred human tree. / Release my seed and let me fall.

  • Now you comprehend your first and final lover / in the dark receding planets of his eyes, / and this is the hour when you know moreover / that the god you have loved always / will descend and lie with you in paradise.

    • Gwendolyn MacEwen,
    • "The Hour of the Singer" (1969, unpublished) in Margaret Atwood, Second Words: Selected Critical Prose ()
  • Life means opportunity, and the thing men call death is the last wonderful, beautiful adventure.

  • Joggers die. Health-food addicts die, and so do people who have spent their entire lives in lounge chairs eating corn curls. Don't muddy it all up feeling guilty. If you've been told you're going to die soon, the only word that should bother you is 'soon.'

  • Talking about death is as difficult as talking about sex.

  • Although he had painted a wondrous heaven to sufferers whose life on earth was a hell, rarely had he found anyone eager for release. Not even the old; sometimes they were the most frightened and clung like birds to the bars of their cage.

  • It is curious how sometimes the memory of death lurks on for so much longer than the memory of life that it purloined.

  • Death is the last fact of which we can be certain.

  • Most of us are dead for a considerable time before the undertaker can be called in.

  • ... the mysterious moment of death proves to be a moment of waking. How one longs to take it for one's self!

    • Sarah Orne Jewett,
    • letter to Annie Fields (1885), in Annie Fields, ed., Letters of Sarah Orne Jewett ()
  • Joyous miracle of birth, dark miracle of death. Between the two, a life, a destiny.

  • ... if death becomes cheap it is the watcher, not the dying, who is poisoned.

  • Children, you must remember something. A man without ambition is dead. A man with ambition but no love is dead. A man with ambition and love for his blessings here on earth is ever so alive. Having been alive, it won't be hard in the end to lie down and rest.

  • ... for all intents and purposes, her father was dead. His body had yet to get the message, but the essence of him was gone.

  • Death is dancing me ragged.

  • Death is the perfect knowing.

  • ... death, however long expected, is sudden at the last ...

  • It's so unfair that we should die, just because we are born.

  • You don't have to want death in order to prepare for it.

  • She'd been preoccupied with death for several years now; but one aspect had never before crossed her mind: dying, you don't get to see how it all turns out.

  • Death is only an old door / Set in a garden wall.

  • Mortality is the essential characteristic of humanity.

    • Yeshe Tsogyel,
    • 8th cent., in Keith Dowman, Sky Dancer: The Secret Life and Songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel ()
  • Her heart sat silent thro' the noise / And concourse of the street. / There was no hurry in her hands, / No hurry in her feet.

  • Growing old was simply a process of drawing closer to that ultimate independence called death.

  • Death! It is rest to the aged, it is oblivion to the atheist, it is immortality to the poet!

  • Whoever mourns the dead mourns himself.

    • Cynthia Ozick,
    • "Envy; Or, Yiddish in America," The Pagan Rabbi and Other Stories ()
  • Death persecutes before it executes.

  • Death does not exaggerate.

  • [On Marilyn Monroe:] I think my response to her death was the common one: it came to me with the impact of a personal deprivation but I also felt it as I might a catastrophe in history or in nature; there was less in life, there was less of life, because she had ceased to exist. In her loss life itself had been injured.

  • Death still celebrates / the life in you ...

    • Nelly Sachs,
    • "Death still celebrates," O the Chimneys ()
  • And you walked over death / like a bird in snow.

    • Nelly Sachs,
    • "Glowing Enigma III," O the Chimneys ()
  • Out of the chill and the shadow, / Into the thrill and the shine; / Out of the death and the famine, / Into the fullness divine.

  • Sunset and evening star, / And one clear call for me / And may there be no moaning at the bar / When I put out to sea.

  • I have only one curiosity left: death.

    • Coco Chanel,
    • in Marcel Haedrich, Coco Chanel: Her Life, Her Secrets ()
  • Metaphorically speaking, I didn't want my approaching union with the debonair Mr. Oblivion to be solemnized in a hasty 2 a.m. shotgun wedding, with a few glum family members in their bathrobes looking on. I didn't want my one-and-only death to be a forcible abduction by a barely-glimpsed stalker who sneaked up and conked me on the head before dragging me off to his rude hovel.

    • Annie Chase,
    • My Purpose Driven Death: How I Became One Lucky Stiff
    • ()
  • My Purpose Driven Death: How I Became One Lucky Stiff.

    • Annie Chase,
    • book title about her self-directed death ()
  • I vividly remember an early May morning in 1968. As I was feeding my month-old son, there was knock on the door. Two uniformed Army officers had come to tell me that my husband had been killed in Vietnam. 'Hostile ground action' they called it ... With tears streaming down my face, I bundled up my son and drove to tell my mother-in-law that her only child was dead. I didn't want two strangers telling her the news that would surely break her heart. She collapsed in my arms, and we cried and hugged for hours. The pain I felt cannot be described in words. I would never wish this devastation on anyone ... It has been 35 years now, and I can still hear the last words my husband ever spoke to me. As he was leaving for Vietnam he said, 'Remember, this is for just a short time. We have the rest of our lives together.' One month later, he was dead.

  • ... even though the dead are beyond our touch, they remain fully dimensional, fully capable of affecting our decisions and quandaries.

    • Connie May Fowler,
    • "If Only," in Constance Warloe, ed., I've Always Meant to Tell You ()
  • ... death, when it comes, takes more than just the life of him whose forehead it touches.

  • Sometimes the dead are more alive than the living. And they can kill the living.

  • ... in the context of loss, each child is an only to her or his parents. Human relationships do not fill in for, do not substitute for, do not replace each other.

    • Marcia Falk,
    • in Christina Buchmann and Celina Spiegel, eds., Out of the Garden ()
  • We do not lose our friends when they die, we only lose sight of them ...

  • A good death, after a bad life — it is possible! But a bad death after a good life — it is impossible!

  • Americans think death is optional.

  • No matter how expected, death is always the ultimate surprise.

  • ... death ... is so inevitable, so lasting, so unexpected, so imminent.

    • Ellen O'Grady,
    • in Djuna Barnes, "Woman Police Deputy Is Writer of Poetry," New York Sun Magazine ()
  • Death knocks at your door; and before you can tell him to come in, he is in the house with you.

  • Whenever you want to see me, always look at the sunset; I will be there.

    • Grace Ogot,
    • "Unwinding Thread," The Rain Came ()
  • I hope the exit is joyful — and I hope never to come back ...

  • Death is the twin of love and mother of us all, she struggles equally for men and women and never accepts differences of caste or class. It's death that quickens us and brings us forth on sheets of love, clasped between sleep and wakefulness and barely breathing for a spell, and thus my death shall be like everybody else's death, as majestic and as pathetic as a king or a beggar's, neither more nor less.

    • Rosario Ferré,
    • title story, Sweet Diamond Dust and Other Stories ()
  • Death is a woman, and for that reason she's courageous and just, and never makes distinctions between mortals; she'll crush the ignorant, the arrogant, and the wise alike under her icy foot.

    • Rosario Ferré,
    • title story, Sweet Diamond Dust and Other Stories ()
  • ... nobody has died a sudden death in that house, Don Hermenegildo, they've all died bit by bit, long before they're apparently dead.

    • Rosario Ferré,
    • title story, Sweet Diamond Dust and Other Stories ()
  • O King of Terrors, whose unbounded Sway / All that have Life, must certainly Obey ...

    • Anne Finch,
    • "To Death," Miscellany Poems, Written by a Lady ()
  • Thou 'llt stay, 'till kinder Death supplys thy place, / The surer Friend, tho' with the harsher face.

    • Anne Finch,
    • "An Invocation to Sleep," Miscellany Poems, Written by a Lady ()
  • Death can be successfully put out of mind for the simple reason that it is beyond human experience. Death is either the abstract concept of nonexistence or the emotion of fear.

    • Lidia Ginzburg,
    • "The Siege of Leningrad," in Soviet Women Writing ()
  • i'm a modern woman / ain't gonna let this get me down / gonna take my master charge / and get everything in town

  • Death is a slave's freedom.

  • Though nought of me remains save smoke drawn out across the windless sky, yet shall I drift to thee unerringly amid the trackless fields of space.

  • When Death first enters a house, he throws so long a shadow — it seems to touch every one.

    • Fanny Longfellow,
    • 1848, in Edward Wagenknecht, ed., Mrs. Longfellow: Selected Letters and Journals of Fanny Appleton Longfellow ()
  • The outrage was on the scale of God. My younger brother was immortal and they hadn't noticed. Immortality had been concealed in my brother's body while he was alive, and we hadn't noticed that it dwelt there. Now my brother's body was dead, and immortality with it. ... And the error, the outrage, filled the whole universe.

  • And isn't it funny, she thought, that it takes two generations to kill off a man? ... First him, and then his memory ...

  • I venture that those of us who are most serene when faced with the possibility of nothingness are the ones who've reached furthest to the downward and upward of their beings.

  • If the Richter scale could measure human calamities, the loss of a child would register a ten.

  • At one precise moment, chronicled on a death certificate, I lost my world. I was not prepared, as no one can be. Grief is not a trip you can pack for.

  • [Death:] The one inexorable thing!

  • I think it is impossible for human minds to think of Death as a final, irrevocable end to life.

  • [Three years before dying in a North African flash flood:] I am not afraid of death, but would not want to die in some obscure or pointless way.

  • Death is the least civilized rite of passage.

  • Death and guilt were natural partners.

  • ... I understand that it is not when or how you die but how and if you truly were ever alive.

  • ... a human being does not cease to exist at death. It is change, not destruction, which takes place.

    • Florence Nightingale,
    • 1860, in Michael D. Calabria and Janet A. Macrae, eds., Suggestions for Thought ()
  • I cannot remember the time when I have not longed for death. ... for years and years I used to watch for death as no sick man ever watched for the morning.

  • There is always a moment when you think of death as a way easier than life ...


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  • ... I believe in the afterglow of a good and long relationship, like the light of a star that keeps pulsing visibly to earth long after the star itself has been extinguished. It may not make your wishes come true, but it can light your way.

  • We were afraid of the dead because we never could tell when they might show up again.

  • That's all that death is ... Just a going away into another country ... Only the separation is harder to bear because there can be no letters to bridge the silence.

  • Oh, Death, rock me asleep, / Bring on my quiet rest, / Let pass my guiltless ghost / Out of my careful breast.

    • Anne Boleyn,
    • 1536, in Margaret Barnes, Brief Gaudy Hour ()
  • But life is short; so gently close the gate.

    • Winifred Howells,
    • who died at age 26, in Edmund Clarence Stedman, An American Anthology 1787-1900 ()
  • ... in the annals of tearjerkers about losing a child, there is no movie to match Terms of Endearment. People who have never lost a child weep uncontrollably. People who have never had a child weep uncontrollably. It's like the nuclear weapon of dead children cinema.

  • The child who enters life comes not with knowledge or intent, / So those who enter death must go as little children sent. / Nothing is known. But I believe that God is overhead; / And as life is to the living, so death is to the dead.

    • Mary Mapes Dodge,
    • "The Two Mysteries," in Edmund Clarence Stedman, An American Anthology 1787-1900 ()
  • Like a bird out of our hand, / Like a light out of our heart, / You are gone.

    • H.D.,
    • "Hymen," Collected Poems ()
  • Death is your truest friend, and your most reliable adviser. If you have doubts about the course of your life, you have only to consult your death for the proper direction. Death will never lie to you.

    • Florinda Donner,
    • in Michael Brennan, "The World of Waking Dreams," The Sun ()
  • How happily, how happily, the flowers die away! / Oh! Could we but return to earth as easily as they.

    • Caroline Anne Southey,
    • "The Death of the Flowers," The Birth-Day: A Poem, to Which Are Added Occasional Verses ()
  • Let not my death be long, / But light / As a bird's swinging; / Happy decision in the height / Of song — / Then flight / From off the ultimate bough! / And let my wing be strong, / And my last note the first / Of another's singing. / See to it, Thou!

  • ... we all hope for a — must I say the word — recipe, we all believe, however much we know we shouldn't, that maybe somebody's got that recipe and can show us how not to be sick, suffer and die.

  • Slowly, gradually, he detached himself, breathing less and less, fainter and fainter; then was he off and free, like a dry leaf from the tree, floating down and away.

    • Helen Nearing,
    • "Twilight and Evening Star," Loving and Leaving the Good Life ()
  • Death would be a complete knowingness, but what frightened him was this: not knowing beforehand what it was he would know.

  • In Spain, however, people have found a way of cheating death. They summon it to appear in the afternoon in the bull ring, and they make it face a man. Death — a fighting bull with horns as weapons — is killed by a bullfighter. And the people are there watching death being cheated of its right.

  • Perhaps what we are searching for in love we will find in its most beautiful completeness only in death.

  • When a child dies, it breaks the pattern, the most fundamental pattern in life.

  • Death clutches me by the ear.

  • In the dark and peace of my final bed, / The wet grass waving above my head, / At rest from love, at rest from pain, / I lie and listen to the rain.

    • Frances Shaw,
    • "Little Pagan Rain Song," in Harriet Monroe and Alice Corbin Henderson, eds., The New Poetry: An Anthology ()
  • It has taken many years and much suffering for me to learn that to die is as natural as to be born; that without death birth would become a greater tragedy than death ever could be.

  • For those who seek to understand it, death is a highly creative force. The highest spiritual values of life can originate from the thought and study of death.

  • Death is the final stage of growth in this life. There is no total death. Only the body dies. The self or spirit, or whatever you may wish to label it, is eternal.

  • Death is the great transition.

  • ... dying nowadays is more gruesome in many ways, namely, more lonely, mechanical, and dehumanized; at times it is even difficult to determine technically when the time of death has occurred.

  • Guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death.

  • Death is simply a shedding of the physical body, like the butterfly coming out of a cocoon. ... It's like putting away your winter coat when spring comes.

  • Watching a peaceful death of a human being reminds us of a falling star; one of the million lights in a vast sky that flares up for a brief moment only to disappear into the endless night forever.

  • If one drops dead in the street, friends and loved ones are shocked, stricken, but a long lingering death loses all nobility and drama, while relatives and friends await the inevitable end in a succession of weary anti-climaxes.

  • To everyone else, the death of that being you love for his own sake, for her own sake, is an event that occurs on a certain day. For you, the death only begins that day. It is not an event: it is only the first moment in a process that lives in you, springing up into the present, engulfing you years, decades, later, as though it were the first moment again.

  • I am afraid of dying — but being dead, oh yes, that to me is often an appealing prospect.

    • Käthe Kollwitz,
    • 1941, in Hans Kollwitz, ed., The Diaries and Letters of Käthe Kollwitz ()
  • Death is not the worst sorrow.

  • Thinking and talking about death need not be morbid; they may be quite the opposite. Ignorance and fear of death overshadow life, while knowing and accepting death erases this shadow.

  • A physician can sometimes parry the scythe of death, but has no power over the sand in the hour-glass.

    • Hester Lynch Piozzi,
    • letter to Fanny Burney (1781), in R. Brimley Johnson, ed., The Letters of Mrs. Thrale ()
  • The woman is perfected. / Her dead / Body wears the smile of accomplishment.

  • The most courageous people in the world are the people who go on after their children have died.

  • There will be a time you bury me / Or I bury you in the garden.

    • Tomioko Taeko,
    • "Living Together," in Joanna Bankier and Deirdre Lashgari, eds., Women Poets of the World ()
  • It is sacrilege to attempt analysis of birth or love or death. Death and birth, the mysteries! Love, the revelation!

  • Death is the prize to which we can all aspire.

    • Gertrude Selzer,
    • in Richard Selzer, Down From Troy: A Doctor Comes of Age ()
  • [At age 9:] Like coulour fading from the evening sky / You slipped away without a cry / And left me / Curiussley afrade ...

  • coming to the end of spring / my grandmother kicks off her shoes / steps out of her faltering body.

  • Death is the ultimate deadline. And nobody likes to be rushed.

  • The stones and trees, insensible to time, / Nor age nor wrinkle on their front are seen; / If Winter come, and greenness then do fade / A Spring returns, and they more youthful made; / But man grows old, lies down, remains where once he's laid.

    • Anne Bradstreet,
    • "Contemplations" (1650), in John Harvard Ellis, ed., The Works of Anne Bradstreet in Prose and Verse ()
  • Some lives would seem to be scarcely complete without death; it comes as such a beautiful, harmonious rounding off; with others of us it is a horrible discord, the sudden snap of a tiger's tooth ...

  • The death I should prefer would be to break my neck off the back of a good horse at a full gallop on a fine day.

    • Fanny Kemble,
    • in Margaret Armstrong, Fanny Kemble: A Passionate Victorian ()
  • [Employee's reaction on hearing that the energetic and vociferous Miss Arden had died:] But it's so unlike her!

    • Anonymous,
    • 1966, in Alfred Allan Lewis and Constance Woodworth, Miss Elizabeth Arden ()
  • Death is an ill; 'tis thus the Gods decide: / For had death been a boon, the Gods had died.

    • Sappho,
    • 6th c. BCE, in C.R. Haines, ed., Sappho: The Poems and Fragments ()
  • It was a time when only the dead / smiled ...

  • I am not going to die. I'm going home like a shooting star.

    • Sojourner Truth,
    • in Venice Johnson, Voice of the Dream: African American Women Speak ()
  • In an obituary you must strive to make the deceased look their best — but not to look like somebody else.

    • Charlotte Hays,
    • in Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays, Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral ()
  • ... in the place I am from ... a grave is topped off with a huge mound of loose earth — carelessly, as if piled up in child's play, not serious at all — because death is just another way of being, and the dead will not stay put, and sometimes the actions of the dead are more significant, more profound, than their actions in life, and no structure of concrete or stone can contain them.

  • I am quite above physical death and believe it to be only the birth throes for a much purer life in a much purer draping.

  • The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much new happens, and nothing is expected of you.

  • The difference between being and non-being is both so abrupt and so vast that it remains shocking even though it happens to every living thing that is, was, or ever will be.

  • Death has been painted as a skeleton grasping a scythe, a grinning skull, a threatening figure with terrible face and uplifted dart, a bony scarecrow shaking an hour-glass — all that could alarm and repel has been gathered round this rightly-named King of Terrors.

  • Anyone's death is Death in its entirety.

  • One by one, our comrades depart, deprive us of their shade.

  • Death is the fairest thing in the world. No one's ever gotten out of it. The earth takes everyone — the kind, the cruel, the sinners. Aside from that, there's no fairness on earth.

  • Was it hard to watch people go? No. Breathing afterward, every day, was harder.

  • Smile, Death, as you fasten the blades to my feet for me, / On, on let us skate past the sleeping willows dusted with snow; / Fast, fast down the frozen stream, with the moor and the road and the vision behind, / (Show me your face, why the eyes are kind!) / And we will not speak of life or believe in it or remember it as we go.

  • I am not afraid to die. I simply do not want to.

  • You, stupid one, who believe in laws which punish murder by murder ...

    • George Sand,
    • 1837, in Marie Jenney Howe, ed., The Intimate Journal of George Sand ()
  • The pain of losing a loved one by the horrible act of murder is not lessened by the horrible murder of another, not even when it is cloaked as 'justice' and state-sanctioned. It is only a delusion to believe that one's pain is ended by making someone else feel pain.

  • ... some of us have learned when murder enters our door — that unnatural death is an evil, no matter whose hand stops the breath.

  • Ninety countries still hold on to capital punishment, and, sadly, one of these is the United States, the only Western industrialized country to practice this barbaric punishment.

  • I wonder if these death penalty proponents would still hold that it's worth some risk of error if it were their loved one who was murdered by the state, though innocent.

  • ... no study has brought out any solid evidence that the death penalty deters crime. In fact, Amnesty reports that 'the murder rate in states which use the death penalty is twice that of states which do not, according to FBI statistics.'

  • What an insane logic we ascribe to — that the state should kill to show others that killing is wrong!

  • I don't believe we should rob thieves, rape rapists, burn an arsonist, or kill a killer. They must be punished, but this is done by taking them out of circulation, protecting society by removing them from the population.

  • ... we can now buy a toy called 'Death Row Marv,' put out by McFarlane Toys, and by pulling a tiny switch, carry out a miniature execution. 'Watch Marv convulse as the switch is thrown,' say the words on the box ... they sold out in preorder sales before Marv was even in the stores ...

  • What makes a Man love Death, Fanny? Is it because he hopes to avert his own by watchin' the Deaths of others? Doth he hope to devour Death by devourin' Executions with his Eyes? I'll ne'er understand it, if I live to be eight hundred Years. The Human Beast is more Beast than Human, 'tis true ...

  • Experience shows that the frequent use of severe punishment has never rendered a people better. The death of a criminal is a less effective means of restraining crimes than the permanent example of a man deprived of his liberty during the whole of his life to make amends for the injury he has done to the public.

  • I say this idea of chokin' folks to death to reform 'em, is where we show the savage in us, which we have brought down from our barbarious ancestors. We have left off the war paint and war whoops, and we shall leave off the hangin' when we get civilized.

  • As a mother trying to raise kids with some kind of a code, an honorable way to solve problems without using violence, I find it interesting to live in a country where your government is allowed to kill, whether it's war or execution. What interests me is not who deserves to die but who deserves to kill.

  • I am opposed to the state being in the killing business ...

  • Vengeance does not subtract any numbers from the equation of murder; it only adds them.

  • Many of us do not believe in capital punishment, because thus society takes from a man what society cannot give.

  • We don't cut off the hands of thieves or castrate rapists. Why must we murder murderers?

  • You know the definition of capital punishment? ... Them without the capital gets the punishment.

  • Why do we kill people who are killing people / To show that killing people is wrong ...

    • Holly Near,
    • "Foolish Notion" (1980), in Holly Near, with Derk Richardson, Fire in the Rain...Singer in the Storm ()
  • ... executions, far from being useful examples to the survivors, have, I am persuaded, a quite contrary effect, by hardening the heart they ought to terrify. Besides the fear of an ignominious death, I believe, never deterred anyone from the commission of a crime, because, in committing it, the mind is roused to activity about present circumstances.

  • I was transfixed with horror, and over me there swept the sudden conviction that that hanging was a mistake — worse, a crime. It was my awakening to one of the most terrible facts of life — that justice and judgment lie often a world apart.

  • The murderous deed of the criminal was against conscience, the torture or the murder of the criminal by the official is with conscience. Thus the conscience is diseased and perverted, and a new class of imbruted men created. We have punished and punished for untold thousands of years, and we have not gotten rid of crime, we have not diminished it.