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Life and Death

  • The hard thing about death is that nothing ever changes. The hard thing about life is that nothing stays the same.

  • Life is real, and death is the illusion.

  • If I knew for certain that I should die next week, I would still be able to sit at my desk all week and study with perfect equanimity, for I know now that life and death make a meaningful whole.

  • Glad was the living — blessed be the dying. / Let the leaves fall.

  • Life, the permission to know death.

  • [On the ancient Venus figurines:] If the central religious figure was a woman giving birth and not, as in our time, a man dying on a cross, it would not be unreasonable to infer that life and the love of life — rather than death and the fear of death — were dominant in society as well as art.

  • Life is the saddest thing there is, next to death ...

  • Life flows on over death as water closes over a stone dropped into a pool. ... Fate is certain; death is certain; but the courage and nobility of men and women matter more than these.

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

  • Life is a movie. Death is a photograph.

  • And once he's been touched he won't dare turn his head, / ... / Numb with pain, the truth comes — that to live means to die. / He is blessed who cares not what the stars signify.

  • It is not death that kills us, but life. We are done to death by life.

  • Destiny is another name for humanity's half-hearted yet persistent search for death. Again and again peoples have had the chance to live and show what would happen if human life were irrigated by continual happiness; and they have preferred to blow up the canals and perish of drought.

  • Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it.

    • Alice Walker,
    • "Only Justice Can Stop a Curse," In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens ()
  • Life and Death are two locked caskets, each of which contains the key to the other.

  • ... I shall never be afraid / Even of life; / And who that does not fear life can fear Death / Which is so much a lesser thing?

  • Knowledge by suffering entereth, / And life is perfected by death.

  • It is not dying hurts us so, — / 'T is living hurts us more ...

    • Emily Dickinson,
    • 1864, in Mabel Loomis Todd, ed., Letters of Emily Dickinson, vol. 2 ()
  • To get born, your body makes a pact with death, / and from that moment, all it tries to do is cheat — .

  • When it's over I don't want to wonder / if I have made of my life something particular, and real. / I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened, / or full of argument. / I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

    • Mary Oliver,
    • "When Death Comes," New and Selected Poems ()
  • I know I shall not live very long. But why is that so sad? Is a festival more beautiful because it lasts longer? My sensuous perceptions grow sharper, as if I were supposed to take in everything with the few years that will be offered to me ... And now love will still blossom for me before I depart, and if I've painted three good pictures, then I shall leave gladly with flowers in my hand and my hair.

  • When you consider something like death, after which (there being no news flash to the contrary) we may well go out like a candle flame, then it probably doesn't matter if we try too hard, are awkward sometimes, care for one another too deeply, are excessively curious about nature, are too open to experience, enjoy a nonstop expense of the senses in an effort to know life intimately and lovingly.

  • Life! we've been long together, / Through pleasant and through cloudy weather; / 'Tis hard to part when friends are dear, / Perhaps 'twill cost a sigh, a tear; / Then steal away, give little warning; / Choose thine own time; / Say not 'Good-night'; but in some brighter clime/ Bid me 'Good-morning.'

  • ... one life would not suffice, mine especially. To touch everything and leave nothing after oneself! Ah! my God! I hope better than that. Ah! I am very cowardly, and under the blow of such a terror I am ready to believe in priests.

  • To be born is to start the journey towards death.

  • What should happen to us is that we should grow to whatever is our peak, and then blow up in a blast of fireworks.

  • ... the anxiety arising from the perpetual activity of the death instinct, though never eliminated, is counteracted and kept at bay by the power of the life instinct.

    • Melanie Klein,
    • "On the Theory of Anxiety and Guilt" (1948), Envy and Gratitude & Other Works 1946-1963 ()
  • ... one should be afraid of life, not of death.

  • What we put into every moment is all we have. You can drug yourself to death or you can smoke yourself to death or eat yourself to death, or you can do everything right and be healthy and then get hit by a car. Life is so great, such a neat thing, and yet all during it we have to face death, which can make you nuts and depressed.

  • It is so hard for us little human beings to accept this deal that we get. It's really crazy, isn't it? We get to live, then we have to die. ... What spirit human beings have! It is a pretty cheesy deal — all the pleasures of life, and then death.

  • The decision to choose life or death is constantly in our own hands.

    • Jenny Read,
    • 1974, in Kathleen Doyle, ed., Jenny Read: In Pursuit of Art and Life ()
  • ... I do disapprove of the modern attitude that you can't do the simplest thing, like dying or being born, in your own house.

  • How oddly do life and death jostle each other in this strange world of ours! How nearly allied are smiles and tears!

  • It's not that I'm afraid to die, but I'm terribly, terribly afraid not to live.

  • Every life is punctuated by deaths and departures, and each one causes great suffering that it is better to endure rather than forgo the pleasure of having known the person who has passed away. Somehow our world rebuilds itself after every death, and in any case we know that none of us will last forever. So you might say that life and death lead us by the hand, firmly but tenderly.

  • i hope i die / warmed by the life / i tried to live.

  • ... if you are afraid of death, you are afraid of life, for living your life leads to death. Until you face death and see its beauty, you will be afraid to really live — you will never properly burn the candle for fear of its end.

    • Doris Haddock,
    • with Dennis Burke, Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year ()
  • It is the denial of death that is partially responsible for people living empty, purposeless lives; for when you live as if you'll live forever, it becomes too easy to postpone the things you know that you must do. You live your life in preparation for tomorrow or in remembrance of yesterday, and meanwhile, each today is lost.

  • Am I incapable of living with the one sole guarantee, that I'm still here? Am I afraid of living because I fear death?

  • The more complete one's life is, the more ... one's creative capacities are fulfilled the less one fears death ... People are not afraid of death per se, but of the incompleteness of their lives.