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Dying

  • As he resigned himself to the acidiae of mortal illness, he was beginning to acquire the foibles of old age: a liking for a small treat, a fussiness about routine, a reluctance to bother with even his oldest acquaintances, an indolence which makes even dressing and bathing a burden, a preoccupation with his bodily functions. He despised the half-man he had become, but even this self-disgust had the querulous resentment of senility.

  • ... death ... so seldom happens nowadays in the awesome quiet of a familiar chamber. Most of us die violently, thanks to the advance of science and warfare. If by chance we are meant to end life in our beds, we are whisked like pox victims to the nearest hospital, where we are kept as alone and unaware as possible of the approach of disintegration.

    • M.F.K. Fisher,
    • in Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste ()
  • When one gets near the grave, Margaret, there is a little light from beyond, and many things are seen not seen before.

  • In our long and obsessive passion for youth, we have — more than any other modern society — avoided direct approach to age and to dying by denying them in word, in fact, and — above all — in worth.

  • Death was not to be a leap: it was to be a long descent under thickening shadows.

  • In the last states of a final illness, we need only the absence of pain and the presence of family.

    • Helen Hayes,
    • with Marion Glasserow Gladney, Loving Life ()
  • 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.

  • ... she realized that the dying must often feel this way — steaming along just fine, while on ahead someone has torn up the rails.

  • In all dying our ages are the same.

  • Death deceives relations often, and doctors sometimes, but the patient — never.

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

  • The South may be the last place where dying is still sometimes a community project.

  • It was not my sins that I regretted at that time; but rather the many things undone — even those indiscretions which one might have committed and had not.

  • Dying seems less sad than having lived too little.

  • Gracious dying is a huge, macabre and expensive joke on the American public.

  • Dying, when you came down to it, was a job. It took planning and attention and energy — like setting up housekeeping or planting corn.

  • Dying is a short horse and soon curried. Living is a horse of another color and bigger.

  • 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.

  • The nearer she came to death, the more, by some perversity of nature, did she enjoy living.

  • I'm not afraid of life and I'm not afraid of death: Dying's the bore.

  • The leaves move in the garden, the sky is pale, and I catch myself weeping. It is hard — it is hard to make a good death ...

  • As the day grew brighter, he grew dimmer, and more of his friends gathered around his bed. They took up their oars and rowed with him as far as they could.

  • The skull of life suddenly showed through its smile.

  • Dying is a wild Night and a new Road.

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • to Perez Cowan (1869), in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Letters of Emily Dickinson, vol. 2 ()
  • 'Tis Dying — I am doing — but / I'm not afraid to know — .

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • c. 1863, in Thomas H. Johnson, ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson ()
  • 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.

  • Such hard work it is to die? Such hard work?

  • [On Gertrude Stein:] About Baby's last words. She said upon waking from a sleep — What is the question. And I didnt answer thinking she was not completely awakened. Then she said again — What is the question and before I could speak she went on — If there is no question then there is no answer. And she turned and went to sleep again. Were they not a summing up of her life and perhaps a vision of the future — often they mean that to me and then they are a comfort.

    • Alice B. Toklas,
    • 1953, in Edward Burns, ed,. Staying On Alone: Letters of Alice B. Toklas ()
  • All her feelings are dulled these days, as though life is already going, slowly leaking out and ebbing away. Maybe it will make my dying that much easier ... when I come to die, there will be little left to die. I'm already a ghost with set wings, stalking tombstone territory.

  • Dying was apparently a weaning process; all the attachments to familiar people and objects had to be undone.

  • One sweetly solemn thought / Comes to me o'er and o'er; / I am nearer home to-day / Than I ever have been before ...

    • Phoebe Cary,
    • "Nearer Home," Poems of Faith, Hope, and Love ()
  • One had to listen very intently to catch the words that she laboured to breathe out; words whose mystery made them as disturbing as those of an oracle. Her memories, her desires, her anxieties were floating somewhere outside time, turned into unreal and poignant dreams by her childlike voice and the imminence of death.

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

  • People is themselves when they are children, and not again till they know they'm dying.

  • Her cheeks flushed at the indecency of being seen, dying and then dead. If only she could get it over and lay herself out decent before anyone came in to see and meddle.

  • I still grieve for the words unsaid. Something terrible happens when we stop the mouths of the dying before they are dead. A silence grows up between us then, profounder than the grave. If we force the dying to go speechless, the stone dropped into the well will fall forever before the answering splash is heard.

  • Everyone eventually dies. Why shouldn't I accomplish it as well as the next one? Why not, indeed? I relax. It is all an experience to be experienced; I shall do it as well as the next one.

  • My breath hovers over the river of God — / Softly I set my foot / On the path to my long home.

    • Else Lasker-Schüler,
    • "I Know That I Must Die Soon," in Nathan and Marynn Ausubel, eds., A Treasury of Jewish Poetry ()
  • 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.'

  • Don't look at the dying; / you'll only encourage them. / The homeless, the hungry, the hurting, / they're not really there / and it's not polite to stare. / ... / Pretty soon the cops'll clear them / all away / anyway, / and your eyes will be safe. / And when you're dying / (oh yes you will) / no one will look.

  • Are all ends of life so sad?

    • Marie of Romania,
    • 1934, in Hannah Pakula, The Last Romantic: A Biography of Queen Marie of Roumania ()
  • He did not speak again till just before he died, when he kissed his wife's hand with singular tenderness and called her 'Elizabeth.' She had been christened Augusta Frederica; but then, as the doctors explained, dying men often make these mistakes.

  • She had supposed that on her deathbed, she would have something final to tell her children when they gathered round. But nothing was final. She didn't have anything to tell them. She felt a kind of shyness; she felt inadequate.

  • 'You almost died,' a nurse told her. But that was nonsense. Of course she wouldn't have died; she had children. When you have children, you're obligated to live.

  • If I must go, let it be easy, slow / The curve complete, and a sure swerve / To the goal.

  • To give to a person whom we love, and whom we are soon to lose, a care that is perfectly ineffectual; to seek to alleviate sharp and almost continual suffering, and only succeed very imperfectly; to try unceasingly to inspire hopes that we ourselves no longer cherish, — ah! believe me, this is frightful, and one would cheerfully give up life itself.

    • Madame Salvage,
    • letter, 1837, in Isaphene M. Luyster, ed., Memoirs and Correspondence of Madame Récamier1867)
  • ... there is no gentling downward, / there is only the one way / climbing.

  • ... it ultimately doesn't matter which disease gnaws away at the body — it looks the same. The flesh surrenders, grows exhausted, and the eyes ask why.

  • The tortures to which people subjected the dying in an attempt to fulfill their duties to life!

  • His grasp on life fanned shallow as poplar roots.

  • It's a strange thing now how people will know they're dying themselves when no one else could suspect anything wrong at all with them.

  • [When asked if she thought much about dying:] No, it's the last thing I want to do.

  • ... 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.

  • 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 ()
  • ... I want to die young. I think it's awful to get old, and sickness is ugly ...

  • Dying / Is an art, like everything else. / I do it exceptionally well.

  • I'm afraid of dying, she admitted, but not of death.

  • Dying doesn't cause suffering. Resistance to dying does.

  • In life, periods of solitude were blessings. Dying alone was a bitter curse.

  • Inside her body her final days chewed their black teeth upwards, towards the eyes which they would close.