Death Quotations

I’m helping to plan a memorial service for a good friend and keep noticing quotations about death and dying. Here are some:

Plato was asked at the very end of his life to sum up his whole life’s work, his philosophy, he said simply, “Practice Dying”.
My life often seemed to me like a story that has no beginning and no end. I had the feeling that I was an historical fragment, an excerpt for which the preceding and succeeding text was missing. I could well imagine that I might have lived in former centuries and there encountered questions I was not yet able to answer; that I had been born again because I had not fulfilled the task given to me. (Quote by – Carl Jung)

Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1963)

Jung’s autobiography, recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffé. (Pantheon Books, 1963)
  • Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.

Maurice Sendak

“I have nothing now but praise for my life. I’m not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can’t stop them. They leave me and I love them more. … What I dread is the isolation. … There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready.”

NUWER: What are your beliefs in afterlife?

SENDAK: Death.

NUWER: Death? Blackness? Void?

SENDAK: Yes. It doesn’t frighten me at all. I think if you’re lucky enough to have lived long enough, and be old enough, it seems to me the gift of death is oblivion. It’s weary to be alive. It’s a chore. It’s a happy chore, a good chore, but you have to be aware that it’s an effort. To live any kind of reasonable, balanced life means you have to put a lot of energy into being reasonable and balanced. Right? It’s not an automatic thing, because as human beings, we are neither reasonable nor balanced automatically. We have to learn to be that way. And I would think that when you’re old, you must be weary of the effort. And you must wish to just not do anything. And, I mean, death is lovely for bringing oblivion. For being the wished-for peach that you’ve earned. It’s terrible if it happens before you reach that stage. But the idea of another life—Mama mia!—once is enough. Unlike Jacqueline Susann.

NUWER: Do you believe in taking your own life, if it’s going badly?

SENDAK: Yes. But you’ve got to be sure it’s going badly. For irreversible reasons. Yes, I do. I think that’s the logical thing to do. I think you’ve got to be logical. But I don’t know how many people can know for sure that it’s irreversible. Terminally ill people do know, and have every reason to take charge of their own fates. I worry about state of depression, which would feel as bad as terminal illness. Taking your life at that point is very questionable.

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