Whether facing one’s own death, or the death of a loved one, many have written wise words about the topic of dying. Here are a few for your reflection.

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Die when I may, I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.

— Abraham Lincoln

Men are never convinced of your reasons, of your sincerity, of the seriousness of your sufferings, except by your death. So long as you are alive, your case is doubtful; you have a right only to their skepticism.

— Albert Camus

I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own — a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble minds harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms.

— Albert Einstein

There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state to another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.

— Alexandre Dumas

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Some one had blundered:
Their’s not to make reply,
Their’s not to reason why,
Their’s but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

— Alfred Lord Tennyson

This is a call to the living,
To those who refuse to make peace with evil,
With the suffering and the waste of the world. This is a call to the human, not the perfect,
To those who know their own prejudices,
Who have no intention of becoming prisoners of their own limitations. This is a call to those who remember the dreams of their youth,
Who know what it means to share food and shelter,
The care of children and those who are troubled,
To reach beyond barriers of the past
Bringing people to communion. This is a call to the never ending spirit
Of the common man, his essential decency and integrity,
His unending capacity to suffer and endure,
To face death and destruction and to rise again
And build from the ruins of life. This is the greatest call of all
The call to a faith in people.

— Algernon Black

To acknowledge our ancestors means we are aware that we did not make ourselves…We remember them because it is an easy thing to forget: that we are not the first to suffer, rebel, fight, love, and die.

— Alice Walker

Just consider how terrible the day of your death will be. Others will go on speaking, and you will not be able to argue back.

— Amartya Sen

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

— Amelia Burr

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.

— Anaïs Nin

In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.

— Anne Frank

You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly – that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.

— Anne Lamott

… those who can serve best, those who help most, those who sacrifice most, those are the people who will be loved in life and honoured in death, when all questions of colour are swept away and when in a free country free citizens shall meet on equal grounds.

— Annie Besant

Any time you are with anyone or think of anyone you must say to yourself: I am dying and this person too is dying, attempting the while to experience the truth of the words you are saying. If every one of you agrees to practice this, bitterness will die out, harmony will arise.

— Anthony de Mello

One lives in the hope of becoming a memory.

— Antonio Porchia

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

— Benjamin Franklin

Does not the very word ‘creative’ mean to build, to initiate, to give out, to act – rather than to be acted upon, to be subjective? Living photography is positive in its approach, it sings a song of life – not death.

— Berenice Abbott

For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate,
A time for war, and a time for peace.

— Bible, Ecclesiastes

He who is not busy being born is busy dying.

— Bob Dylan

I understand that I don’t do what I do because it is required or necessary or important. I don’t do it because I have no choice. I do what I do because I’m broken too. My years of struggling against inequality, abusive power, poverty, oppression and injustice had finally revealed something in me about myself. Being close to suffering, death, executions, and cruel punishments didn’t just illuminate the brokenness of others; in a moment of anguish, it also exposed my own brokenness. You can’t effectively fight abusive power, poverty, inequality, illness, oppression, or injustice and not be broken by it.

— Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy

Nature is unsentimental. Death is built in.

— Carl Sagan

I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking.

— Carl Sagan, Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium

The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.

— Carl Sagan

A brief candle; both ends burning
An endless mile; a bus wheel turning
A friend to share the lonesome times
A handshake and a sip of wine
So say it loud and let it ring
We are all a part of everything
The future, present and the past
Fly on proud bird
You’re free at last.

— Charlie Daniels, written en route to the funeral for his friend, Ronnie Van Zant of the band, Lynyrd Skynyrd

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.

— Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Human life consists in mutual service. No grief, pain, misfortune, or ‘broken heart,’ is excuse for cutting off one’s life while any power of service remains. But when all usefulness is over, when one is assured of an unavoidable and imminent death, it is the simplest of human rights to choose a quick and easy death in place of a slow and horrible one.

— Charlotte Perkins Gilman, suicide note, August 17, 1935

It is told that Buddha, going out to look on life, was greatly daunted by death. ‘They all eat one another!’ he cried, and called it evil. This process I examined, changed the verb, said, ‘They all feed one another,’ and called it good.

— Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.

— Christopher Hitchens

I have never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.

— Clarence Darrow

Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.

— Dag Hammarskjöld
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