tree in the shape of a head, with leaves blown off, also retaining the shape of a head

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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We pass and leave you lying. No need for rhetoric, for funeral music, for melancholy bugle-calls. No need for tears now, no need for regret. We took our risk with you; you died and we live. We take your noble gift, salute for the last time those lines of pitiable crosses, those solitary mounds, those unknown graves, and turn to live our lives out as we may. Which of us were fortunate — who can tell? For you there is silence and cold twilight drooping in awful desolation over those motionless lands. For us sunlight and the sound of women’s voices, song and hope and laughter, despair, gaiety, love — life. Lost terrible silent comrades, we, who might have died, salute you.

— Richard Aldington

Spirituality exists wherever we struggle with the issue of how our lives fit into the greater cosmic scheme of things. This is true even when our questions never give way to specific answers or give rise to specific practices such as prayer or meditation. We encounter spiritual issues every time we wonder where the universe comes from, why we are here, or what happens when we die. We also become spiritual when we become moved by values such as beauty, love, or creativity that seem to reveal a meaning or power beyond our visible world. An idea or practice is ‘spiritual’ when it reveals our personal desire to establish a felt-relationship with the deepest meanings or powers governing life.

— Robert C. Fuller

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge — myth is more potent than history — dreams are more powerful than facts — hope always triumphs over experience — laughter is the cure for grief — love is stronger than death.

— Robert Fulghum

Grief can awaken us to new values and new and deeper appreciations. Grief can cause us to reprioritize things in our lives, to recognize what’s really important and put it first. Grief can heighten our gratitude as we cease taking the gifts life bestows on us for granted. Grief can give us the wisdom of being with death. Grief can make death the companion on our left who guides us and gives us advice. None of this growth makes the loss good and worthwhile, but it is the good that comes out of the bad.

— Roger Bertschausen, Beyond Absence: A Treasury Of Poems, Quotations, And Readings On Death And Remembrance

All good is hard. All evil is easy. Dying, losing, cheating, and mediocrity is easy. Stay away from easy.

— Scott Alexander

Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.

— Shannon Alder

From the hour you’re born you begin to die. But between birth and death there’s life.

— Simone de Beauvoir

I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die.

— Stephen Hawking

I don’t want to die as long as I can work; the minute I can not, I want to go.

— Susan B. Anthony

Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?

— terry Pratchett, Going Postal

No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away….

— Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

Don’t strew me with roses after I’m dead.
When Death claims the light of my brow,
No flowers of life will cheer me: instead
You may give me my roses now!

— Thomas F. Healey

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.

— Thomas Paine

Dying is a very dull, dreary affair. And my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.

— W. Somerset Maugham

The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.

— Will Rogers

Like Christianity, Buddhism explained suffering. In forms that established themselves in China, Buddhism offered the same sort of comfort to bereaved survivors and victims of violence or of disease as Christian faith did in the Roman world. Buddhism of course originated in India, where disease incidence was probably always very high as compared with civilizations based in cooler climates; Christianity, too, took shape in the urban environments of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria where the incidence of infectious disease was certainly very high as compared to conditions in cooler and less crowded places. From their inception, therefore, both faiths had to deal with sudden death by disease as one of the conspicuous facts of human life. Consequently, it is not altogether surprising that both religions taught that death was a release from pain, and a blessed avenue of entry upon a delightful afterlife where loved ones would be reunited, and earthly injustices and pains amply compensated for.

— William H. NcNeill

When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

— William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

I want a busy life, a just mind, and a timely death.

— Zora Neale Hurston
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