Helpful loss mantra?
April 3, 2011 7:25 PM   Subscribe

Quotations to help with the loss of loved ones?

I am mourning the best and dearest of friends. This brings with it the past weight of loss of close family members and that of the impending loss of one of the best people I have had the honor of knowing. Please provide quotations that have helped you to honor the fallen and to persevere in the face of that rotten and unfair foe, death.
posted by Morrigan to Religion & Philosophy (14 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
On Death, by Kahlil Gibran.
posted by holterbarbour at 8:02 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

The final lines of Thanatopsis:

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
posted by faineant at 8:15 PM on April 3, 2011

By The Cheerful Oncologist:

"Your body is dying, but not your spirit. The fire that blazes within you, that has allowed you to carry on so long with this disease, is still bright. It will not vanish until your body reaches its final breath, and on that day, on the day of your death, the person that inhabited your body will indeed disappear, yet it will live on - in the memories of those who knew and loved you. Such is the power of the human spirit."
posted by virago at 8:19 PM on April 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

P.S. The Cheerful Oncologist sounds like a blog that is snarky or a contradiction in terms, but it was actually the brainchild of a thoughtful, compassionate cancer doc named Craig Hildreth. (His blog archives helped me a lot as I have struggled to deal with a dear friend/ex-SO's recent death from brain cancer.)
posted by virago at 8:26 PM on April 3, 2011

I went to Yosemite National Park, and I saw some huge waterfalls. The highest one there is 1.340 feet high, and from it the water comes down like a curtain thrown from the top of the mountain. It does not seem to come down swiftly, as you might expect; it seems to come down very slowly because of the distance. And the water does not come down as one stream, but is separated into many tiny streams. From a distance it looks like a curtain. And I thought it must be a very difficult experience for each drop of water to come down from the top of such a high mountain. It takes time, you know, a long time, for the water finally to reach the bottom of the waterfall. And it seems to me that our human life may be like this...

When the water returns to its original oneness with the river, it no longer has any individual feeling to it; it resumes its own nature, and finds composure. How very glad the water must be to come back to the original river! If this is so, what feeling will we have when we die? ... For us, just now, we have some fear of death, but after we resume our true original nature, there is Nirvana. That is why we say, "To attain Nirvana is to pass away." "To pass away" is not a very adequate expression. Perhaps "to pass on," or "to go on," or "to join" would be better. Will you try to find some better expression for death? When you find it, you will have quite a new interpretation of your life. It will be like my experience when I saw the water in the big waterfall. Imagine! It was 1,340 feet high!

Shunryu Suzuki, "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind"
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:30 PM on April 3, 2011

I've tried to find attribution for this one, but all I got was "Unknown."

"Love is stronger than death even though it can't stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries it can't separate people from love. It can't take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death."

This was tough. My first reaction to death is humor [1], but that doesn't often go over well. [2] And I really, really wanted to find something from Marcus Aurelius, but he doesn't do "comforting." The closest I could find in my archives is "Death is a release from the impressions of the senses, and from desires that make us their puppets, and from the vagaries of the mind, and from the hard service of the flesh."

Excellent philosopher, top-notch emperor. Grief counselor? Not so much.


[1] "Death is not the end. There remains the litigation of the estate." - Ambrose Bierce
[2] I'm a weak, weak man.
posted by MShades at 9:02 PM on April 3, 2011

I feel like a big nerd for posting this, but something that really resonated with (non-spiritual) me was the last episode of Season 5 of Doctor Who (I know, I know). The Doctor is about to be erased from history, and he's sitting at the childhood bedside of his friend (time travel's a bitch), and he says:

"When you wake up tomorrow, [...] I'll be a story in your head. But that's okay. We're all stories in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?"
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:51 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost." - Arthur Schopenhauer

"I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love." - Leo F. Buscaglia

"Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace." - Oscar Wilde

"If suddenly you do not exist, if suddenly you no longer live, I shall live on. I do not dare, I do not dare to write it, if you die. I shall live on. [...] If you no longer live, if you, beloved, my love, if you have died, all the leaves will fall in my breast, it will rain on my soul night and day, the snow will burn my heart, I shall walk with frost and fire and death and snow, my feet will want to walk to where you are sleeping, but I shall stay alive, because above all things you wanted me indomitable...." - Pablo Neruda
posted by datarose at 1:45 AM on April 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

We are such stuff as dreams are made on. And our little lives are rounded with a sleep.

Prospero, The Tempest.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:00 AM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I find the poem "Sunlight on the garden" by Louis Macneice helpful, especially the last lines:

We are dying, Egypt, dying
And not expecting pardon
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden

I like the combination of raging against death while remembering and appreciating better days.
posted by *becca* at 5:41 AM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Ecclesiastes 12:7
posted by partner at 10:54 AM on April 4, 2011

Honour with remembrance, and not with tears.

Its the epitaph on my Opa's grave.

It resonates with me, because the only immortality we can have is in the memories of ourselves we leave behind with others.
posted by sandraregina at 11:07 AM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Albert Einstein, upon the occasion of the death of his friend Michele Besso, in a condolence letter to Besso's son and sister: "Now Besso has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That signifies nothing. For us, physicists in the soul, the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."
posted by virago at 9:02 AM on April 5, 2011

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