Quotations about   death

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LORD, WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPER MAN?

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Reaper Man (1991)
Added on 26-Jul-19 | Last updated 26-Jul-19
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Always struck by the “comical” aspect of everything in Algeria connected with death. I find nothing more justified. Impossible to exaggerate the ridiculous quality of an event that is normally accompanied by sweat and gurgling. Similarly, it could not be too far demoted from the sacred status normally attributed to it. Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear. And from this point of view, death is no more worthy of respect than Nero or the inspector at my local police station.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
Notebooks, Vol. 1 (1935-1942)
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Added on 31-May-19 | Last updated 31-May-19
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There’s nothing noble about dying. Not even if you die for honor. Not even if you die the greatest hero the world ever saw. Not even if you’re so great your name will never be forgotten and who’s that great? The most important thing is your life, little guys. You’re worth nothing dead except for speeches. Don’t let them kid you any more. Pay no attention when they tap you on the shoulder and say come along we’ve got to fight for liberty, or whatever their word is. There’s always a word.

Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) American screenwriter and novelist [James Dalton Trumbo]
Johnny Got His Gun (1938)
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Added on 6-Mar-19 | Last updated 6-Mar-19
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You can always hear the people who are willing to sacrifice somebody else’s life. They’re plenty loud and they talk all the time. You can find them in churches and schools and newspapers and congresses. That’s their business. They sound wonderful. Death before dishonor. This ground sanctified by blood. These men who died so gloriously. They shall not have died in vain. Our noble dead.

Hmmmm.

But what do the dead say?

Did anybody ever come back from the dead any single one of the millions who got killed did any one of them ever come back and say by god I’m glad I’m dead because death is always better than dishonor? Did they say I’m glad i died to make the world safe for democracy? Did they say i like death better than losing liberty? Did any of them ever say it’s good to think i got my guts blown out for the honor of my country? Did any of them ever say look at me i’m dead but i died for decency and that’s better than being alive? Did any of them ever say here i am, i’ve been rotting for two years in a foreign grave but it’s wonderful to die for your native land? Did any of them say hurray I died for womanhood and I’m happy, see how I sing even though my mouth is choked with worms?

Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) American screenwriter and novelist [James Dalton Trumbo]
Johnny Got His Gun (1938)
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Added on 2-Feb-19 | Last updated 2-Feb-19
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Neither fear your death’s day nor long for it.

[Summum nec metuas diem nec optes.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 10, epigram 47, l. 13 [tr. Ker (1919)]
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    The final element of living a happy life. Alt. trans.:
  • "Neither fear, nor wish for, your last day" [Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)]
  • "Nor fear nor yet desire thy last day" [Dictionary of Quotations (Classical) (1906)]
  • "And for the inevitable hour, / Nor hope it nigh, nor dread its power." [tr. Merivale]
  • "Ne wish for Death, ne fear his might." [tr. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey]
  • "Death neither wish, nor fear to see." [tr. Sir Richard Fanshawe]
  • "Neither to fear death nor seek it." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
  • "Nor dread your last day, nor long for it." [tr. Ker (1919)]
Added on 12-Sep-18 | Last updated 12-Sep-18
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SPARTACUS: When a free man dies, he loses the pleasure of life. A slave loses his pain. Death is the only freedom a slave knows. That’s why he’s not afraid of it. That’s why we’ll win.

Dalton Trumbo (1905-1976) American screenwriter and novelist [James Dalton Trumbo]
Spartacus (1960) [novel by Howard Fast]
Added on 4-Sep-18 | Last updated 4-Sep-18
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JOKER: The dead know only one thing: it is better to be alive.

Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) American film director, screenwriter, producer
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Added on 17-Aug-18 | Last updated 17-Aug-18
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Is life a boon?
If so, it must befall
That Death, when ere he call
Must call too soon.
Though fourscore years give
Yet one would pray to live
Another moon.

W. S. Gilbert (1836-1911) English playwright [William Schwenck Gilbert]
The Yeomen of the Guard, Act 1, No. 5 [Col. Fairfax] (1888) [with Arthur Sullivan, comp.]
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Added on 5-Apr-18 | Last updated 5-Apr-18
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Sorrow makes us all children again, destroys all difference of intellect. The wisest knows nothing.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (30 Jan 1842)
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Two days after he recorded the death of his son.
Added on 3-Apr-18 | Last updated 7-Jan-19
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My son, a perfect little boy of five years and three months, had ended his earthly life. You can never sympathize with me; you can never know how much of me such a young child can take away. A few weeks ago I accounted myself a very rich man, and now the poorest of all.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Letter to Thomas Carlyle (28 Feb 1842)
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Added on 20-Mar-18 | Last updated 20-Mar-18
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If glory comes after death, I hurry not.

[Si post fata venit gloria, non propero.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 5, ep. 10 [tr. Rush]

Alt. trans.: "If glory comes only after death I am in no hurry for it." [tr. Bohn (1871)]
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What do you suppose makes all men look back to the time of childhood with so much regret (if their childhood has been, in any moderate degree, healthy or peaceful)? That rich charm, which the least possession had for us, was in consequence of the poorness of our treasures. That miraculous aspect of the nature around us, was because we had seen little, and knew less. Each increased possession loads us with a new weariness; every piece of new knowledge diminishes the faculty of admiration; and Death is at last appointed to take us from a scene in which, if we were to stay longer, no gift could satisfy us, and no miracle surprise.

John Ruskin (1819-1900) English art critic, painter, writer, social thinker
The Eagle’s Nest, Lecture 5 “The Power of Contentment in Science and Art,” Sec. 82 (22 Feb 1872)
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Added on 15-Feb-18 | Last updated 15-Feb-18
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Man is a noble animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave, solemnizing nativities and deaths with equal luster, nor omitting ceremonies of bravery, in the infamy of his nature.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Urn-Burial: Or, Hydriotaphia, ch. 5 (1658)
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Added on 8-Jan-18 | Last updated 8-Jan-18
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Dying is an art.
Like everything else,
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I have a call.

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) American poet and author
“Lady Lazarus”
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Added on 13-Dec-17 | Last updated 13-Dec-17
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Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) Welsh poet and writer
“Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” (1947)
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First published in Botteghe Oscure (Nov 1951).
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The King in a carriage may ride,
And the Beggar may crawl at his side;
But in the general race,
They are traveling all the same pace.

Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883) English writer, poet, translator
“Chronomoros,” l. 57ff, Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal (5 Dec 1840)
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Added on 18-Sep-17 | Last updated 18-Sep-17
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Glory paid to ashes comes too late.

[Cineri gloria sera venit.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 1, Epigram 25 “To Faustinus”

Alt. trans.:
  • To the ashes of the dead glory comes too late. [Ker (1919)]
  • Glory comes too late, when paid only to our ashes. [Bohn (1871)]
  • Too late men praise unto our ashes give. [Anon., (1695)]
  • For honours after death too late arrive. [Hay]
Added on 23-Aug-17 | Last updated 23-Aug-17
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Man is so built that he cannot imagine his own death. This leads to endless invention of religions. While this conviction by no means proves immortality to be a fact, questions generated by it are overwhelmingly important. The nature of life, how ego hooks into the body, the problem of ego itself and why each ego seems to be the center of the universe, the purpose of life, the purpose of the universe — these are paramount questions, Ben; they can never be trivial. Science hasn’t solved them — and who am I to sneer at religions for trying, no matter how unconvincingly to me? Old Mumbo Jumbo may eat me yet; I can’t rule him out because he owns no fancy cathedrals. Nor can I rule out one godstruck boy leading a sex cult in an upholstered attic; he might be the Messiah. The only religious opinion I feel sure of is this: self-awareness is not just a bunch of amino acids bumping together!

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Stranger in a Strange Land, Part 4, ch. 33 [Jubal] (1961)
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In the "uncut" original version (1960): "Self-aware man is so built that he cannot believe in his own extinction ... and this automatically leads to endless invention of religions. While this involuntary conviction of immortality by no means proves immortality to be a fact, the questions generated by this conviction are overwhelmingly important ... whether we can answer them or not, or prove what answers we suspect. The nature of life, how the ego hooks into the physical body, the problem of the ego itself and why each ego seems to be the center of the universe, the purpose of life, the purpose of the universe -- these are paramount questions Ben; they can never be trivial. Science can't, or hasn't, coped with any of them -- and who am I to sneer at religions for trying to answer them, no matter how unconvincingly to me? Old Mumbo Jumbo may eat me yet; I can't rule Him out because He owns no fancy cathedrals. Nor can I rule out one godstruck boy leading a sex cult in an upholstered attic; he might be the Messiah. The only religious opinion that I feel sure of is this: self-awareness is not just a bunch of amino acids bumping together!"
Added on 11-Aug-17 | Last updated 11-Aug-17
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Life is near-death experience.

Alain de Botton (b. 1969) Swiss-British author
‘On Pessimism,” lecture (3 Feb 2013)
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Transcript here.
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So fleet the works of men, back to their earth again;
Ancient and holy things fade like a dream.

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) English clergyman, historian, essayist, novelist (pseud. "Parson Lot")
“Old and New,” ll. 3–4 (1848)
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Each Morn a thousand Roses brings, you say;
Yes, but where leaves the Rose of Yesterday?

Omar Khayyám (1048-1123) Persian poet, mathematician, philosopher, astronomer
Rubaiyat, 9 [tr. FitzGerald, 5th Ed. (1889)]
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The aims of life are the best defense against death.

Primo Levi (1919-1987) Italian Jewish chemist and writer
The Drowned and the Saved (1988)
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I like to see flowers growing, but when they are gathered, they cease to please. I look on them as things rootless and perishable; their likeness to life makes me sad. I never offer flowers to those I love; I never wish to receive them from hands dear to me.

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) British novelist [pseud. Currer Bell]
Villette, ch. 24 “Monsieur’s Fête” (1853)
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Man has three friends on whose company he relies. First, wealth — which goes with him only while good fortune lasts. Second, his relatives — they go only as far as the grave and leave him there. The third friend, his good deeds, go with him beyond the grave.

The Talmud (AD 200-500) Collection of Jewish rabbinical writings
(Attributed)

I could not find an actual citation for this quotation, but the story (the explanation of a parable, in which a man is summoned before a king, and while his dearest friend will not go with him, and his second best friend will only go to the palace gates, his least-loved friend goes with him before the throne) shows up with different translation in multiple sources:
  • The Talmud: SelectionsPart 5 "Civil and Criminal Laws -- the Holy Days" - "The Day of Atonement" [tr. Polano (1876)].
  • Isaac Aboav, Lamp of Light [Menorat Hamoar] [14th C], Fifth Lamp "Teshuvah," Sec. 2 [ch. 3]  in Leonard Kravitz and Kerry Olitzky, <i>Journey of the Soul: Traditional Sources on the</i> Teshuvah (1995).
  • Talmudic and Other Legends [tr., comp. Weiss (1888 ed.), "Man's Three Friends" (Pirke R. Eliezer).
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“Far better that they are dead and with God, who will know how to deal with them. That is, after all,” Miss Mead said gravely, “what God is for.”

Kerry Greenwood (b. 1954) Australian author and lawyer
Urn Burial (1996)
Added on 29-May-17 | Last updated 29-May-17
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There is no such thing as inner peace. There is only nervousness or death.

Fran Lebowitz (b. 1950) American journalist
Metropolitan Life, “Manners” (1978)
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DEATH: You see. No shock. No engulfment. No tearing asunder. What you feared would come like an explosion is like a whisper. What you thought was the end is the beginning.

George Clayton Johnson (1929-2015) American writer
Twilight Zone, 3×16 “Nothing in the Dark” (5 Jan 1962)
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There is a difference between tragedy and blind brutal calamity. Tragedy has meaning, and there is dignity in it. Tragedy stands with its shoulders stiff and proud. But there is no meaning, no dignity, no fulfillment, in the death of a child.

Walter M. Miller Jr. (1923-1996) American science fiction writer
“The Will” (1953)
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No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed, ch. 1 (1961)
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Every hour wounds. The last one kills.

gaiman-last-one-kills-wist_info-quote

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
American Gods, epigraph (2001)
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Gaiman notes this as an "old saying." It is frequently found on sun dials or other clocks, sometimes in Latin. Variations:
  • "All hours wound; the last one kills."
  • "All the hours wound you, the last one kills."
  • "They all wound; the last one kills."
  • "Vulnerant omnes, ultima necat."
  • "Omnes vulnerant. Postuma necat."
Added on 17-Nov-16 | Last updated 17-Nov-16
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Sister Mattie could be rather fatalistic at times; it was why she was such a good poisoning instructor. Death, felt Sister Mattie, must come to everyone in the end. Sometimes it simply required a little help.

Gail Carriger (b. 1976) American archaeologist, author [pen name of Tofa Borregaard]
Curtsies & Conspiracies (2013)
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I have little confidence in any enterprise or business or investment that promises dividends only after the death of the stockholders.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Letter to the Chicago Times (27 Mar 1890)
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A stranger to human nature, who saw the indifference of men about the misery of their inferiors, and the regret and indignation which they feel for the misfortunes and sufferings of those above them, would be apt to imagine that pain must be more agonizing, and the convulsions of death more terrible, to people of higher rank than to those of meaner stations.

Adam Smith (1723-1790) Scottish economist
The Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1.3.2 (1759)
Added on 14-Sep-16 | Last updated 14-Sep-16
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What sort of a lover am I to think so much about my affliction and so much less about hers? Even the insane call, ‘Come back,’ is all for my own sake. I never even raised the question whether such a return, if it were possible, would be good for her. I want her back as an ingredient in the restoration of my past. Could I have wished her anything worse? Having got once through death, to come back and then, at some later date, have all her dying to do over again? They call Stephen the first martyr. Hadn’t Lazarus the rawer deal?

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed (1961)
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In such a regime, I say, you died a good death if your life had inspired someone to come forward and shoot your murderer in the chest — without asking to be paid.

Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, critic [Albert Chinualumogu Achebe]
A Man of the People (1966)
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I hate that I’ve become one of those old men who visits a cemetery to be with his dead wife. When I was (much) younger I used to ask Kathy what the point would be. A pile of rotting meat and bones that used to be a person isn’t a person anymore; it’s just a pile of rotting meat and bones. The person is gone — off to heaven or hell or wherever or nowhere. You might as well visit a side of beef.

When you get older you realize this is still the case. You just don’t care. It’s what you have.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
Old Man’s War (2005)
Added on 16-Aug-16 | Last updated 16-Aug-16
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Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.

Shakespeare - chimney-sweepers come to dust - wist_info quote

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Cymbeline, Act 3, sc. 2 [Guiderius] (1623)
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In youth, the years stretch before one so long that it is hard to realize that they will ever pass, and even in middle age, with the ordinary expectation of life in these days, it is easy to find excuses for delaying what one would like to do but does not want to; but at last a time comes when death must be considered.

W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) English novelist and playwright [William Somerset Maugham]
The Summing Up, ch. 3 (1938)
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I’ll clue you in on a secret: death is not the worst thing that could happen to you. I know we think that; we are the first society ever to think that. It’s not worse than dishonor; it’s not worse than losing your freedom; it’s not worse than losing a sense of personal responsibility.

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
Be More Cynical (2000)
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‘Tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes.

Christopher Bullock (1690?-1724) English actor and dramatist
The Cobler of Preston (1716)
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“Gun-wielding recluse gunned down by local police” isn’t the epitaph I want. I am hoping for “Witnesses reported the sound up to two hundred kilometers away” or “Last body part finally located”.

James Nicoll (b. 1961) Canadian reviewer, editor
Usenet (2005)
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ANTONY: The evil men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Julius Caesar, Act 3, scene 2, l. 80 (1599)
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Romeo and Juliet died. I always liked that in a teen romance story.

James Nicoll (b. 1961) Canadian reviewer, editor
“Sex AND violence!?” rec.arts.sf.written (26 Feb 1996)
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The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.

Carnegie - dies thus rich - wist_info quote

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) American industrialist and philanthropist
“Wealth,” North American Review (Jun 1889)

Reprinted in The Gospel of Wealth (1889).
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The dead don’t need justice. That’s for those of us who are left looking down at the remains.

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
Skin Game (2014)
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LAFEU: Moderate lamentation is the right of the dead, excessive grief the enemy to the living.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
All’s Well that Ends Well, Act 1, sc. 1, l. 63 (1602)
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PELAGEA VLASOVA: Don’t be afraid of death so much as an inadequate life.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) German poet, playwright, director, dramaturgist
The Mother (1930)
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Remember, though we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way round — we get afraid because we struggle. Are you struggling, resisting? Don’t you think Our Lord says to you ‘Peace, child, peace. Relax. Let go. Underneath are the everlasting arms. Let go, I will catch you. Do you trust me so little?’ Of course, this may not be the end. Then make it a good rehearsal.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letter to Mary Willis Shelburne (17 Jun 1963)

Discussing the closeness of death.
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Bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love. It follows marriage as normally as marriage follows courtship or as autumn follows summer.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed (1961)
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Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.

Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions “on the further shore,” pictured in entirely earthly terms. But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs. There’s not a word of it in the Bible. And it rings false. We know it couldn’t be like that. Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the Spiritualists bait their hook! “Things on this side are not so different after all.” There are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored.

And that, just that, is what I cry out for, with mad, midnight endearments and entreaties spoken into the empty air.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
A Grief Observed (1961)
Added on 29-Jul-15 | Last updated 29-Jul-15
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More quotes by Lewis, C.S.

“So what do we do if we get bitten by something deadly, then?” I asked.

He blinked at me as if I were stupid.

“Well what do you think you do?” he said. “You die of course. That’s what deadly means.”

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Last Chance to See, ch. 2 (1990)
Added on 6-Jul-15 | Last updated 6-Jul-15
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He died doing what he loved most: not being dead.

Joss Whedon (b. 1964) American screenwriter, author, producer [Joseph Hill Whedon]
Tweet (3 Oct 2014)
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Added on 2-Jul-15 | Last updated 2-Jul-15
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We who think we are about to die will laugh at anything.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Night Watch (2002)
Added on 1-Jul-15 | Last updated 24-Jun-15
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Time is a drug. Too much of it kills you.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Small Gods (1992)
Added on 13-May-15 | Last updated 13-May-15
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Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, ch. 7 epigraph “Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar” (1894)
Added on 11-May-15 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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