Barely two months after I was told I have pancreatic cancer and one month after the Whipple surgery, I posted a story of quotations from people ancient and modern about death.
Now that I am coming up on two-and-a-half years since then during which time I have gained even a more up close and personal relationship with my own death, I wondered if my choices of quotations that speak to me have changed.
There are a dozen or so quotations about death in that post and I must say that looking back with newly educated eyes on the subject, I did a pretty good job of selection. But there are a few that take on a stronger resonance now.
This one because death is serious but should not be somber:
”Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.” - George Bernard Shaw
Because I know even better now that this one is so too:
“A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist.” – Stewart Alsop
Because death is a prerequisite to continued life on Earth:
"It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” - Steve Jobs (who died of pancreatic cancer in 2011, eight years after diagnosis)
I have always liked quotations. I keep running lists of them by topic, adding those that are new (to me) as they turn up. This one, that sits in a small frame on my desk, is from Albus Dumbledore, the head master of Hogwarts school in the Harry Potter series of books:
”Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”
Exactly. It is why, at this blog, we use the word “old” instead of such euphemisms as “golden-ager”, for example, and “death” instead of “passed” or “demise.”
The 29 months since my cancer diagnosis have given me a lot of time to think about the death sentence it puts me under. Dying is no longer an abstract idea I can pretend is far in the future anymore.
So here are a few more quotations about death that have stuck with me since I found them (or they found me).
”While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.” - Leonardo da Vinci
”Death smiles at us all, all a man can do is smile back.” - Marcus Aurelius
”If life must not be taken too seriously, then so neither must death. - Samuel Butler
This next one opens up a world of speculation to ponder and play with about death.
”Death is only the end if you assume the story is about you.” - Welcome to Night Vale (Podcast)
”Death is a law, not a punishment.” - Jean Dubos
”I was discovering that I was not afraid of death; rather, I was in awe of it.” - Kathryn Mannix
”Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.” - Dag Hammarskjold
The first half of Hammarskjold's quotation is a good lead-in to a story about death that I have liked since I first read it when I was a kid and have posted it here before (all good stories deserve repetition).
From W. Somerset Maugham in 1933, The Appointment in Samarra as told by Death.
”There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. “She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.
“The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.
“Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?
“That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”
Now it is your turn. Do you have any quotations about death and dying you want to post here?