Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship, which struggles on in the survivor's mind toward some resolution which it may never find.
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Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship, which struggles on in the survivor’s mind toward some resolution which it may never find.

-Robert Anderson

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{The final resolutions at Robert Ingersoll's funeral, quoted here}Whereas, in the order of nature -- that nature which moves with unerring certainty in obedience to fixed laws -- Robert G. Ingersoll has gone to that repose which we call death.We, his old friends and fellow-citizens, who have shared his friendship in the past, hereby manifest the respect due his memory. At a time when everything impelled him to conceal his opinions or to withhold their expression, when the highest honors of the state were his if he would but avoid discussion of the questions that relate to futurity, he avowed his belief; he did not bow his knee to superstition nor countenance a creed which his intellect dissented.Casting aside all the things for which men most sigh -- political honor, the power to direct the futures of the state, riches and emoluments, the association of the worldly and the well- to-do -- he stood forth and expressed his honest doubts, and he welcomed the ostracism that came with it, as a crown of glory, no less than did the martyrs of old.Even this self-sacrifice has been accounted shame to him, saying that he was urged thereto by a desire for financial gain, when at the time he made his stand there was before him only the prospect of loss and the scorn of the public. We, therefore, who know what a struggle it was to cut loose from his old associations, and what it meant to him at that time, rejoice in his triumph and in the plaudits that came to him from thus boldly avowing his opinions, and we desire to record the fact that we feel that he was greater than a saint, greater than a mere hero -- he was a thoroughly honest man.He was a believer, not in the narrow creed of a past barbarous age, but a true believer in all that men ought to hold sacred, the sanctity of the home, the purity of friendship, and the honesty of the individual. He was not afraid to advocate the fact that eternal truth was eternal justice; he was not afraid of the truth, nor to avow that he owed allegiance to it first of all, and he was willing to suffer shame and condemnation for its sake.The laws of the universe were his bible; to do good, his religion, and he was true to his creed. We therefore commend his life, for he was the apostle of the fireside, the evangel of justice and love and charity and happiness.We who knew him when he first began his struggle, his old neighbors and friends, rejoice at the testimony he has left us, and we commend his life and efforts as worthy of emulation.

-Robert Ingersoll

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I feel to that the gap between my new life in New York and the situation at home in Africa is stretching into a gulf, as Zimbabwe spirals downwards into a violent dictatorship. My head bulges with the effort to contain both worlds. When I am back in New York, Africa immediately seems fantastical – a wildly plumaged bird, as exotic as it is unlikely.Most of us struggle in life to maintain the illusion of control, but in Africa that illusion is almost impossible to maintain. I always have the sense there that there is no equilibrium, that everything perpetually teeters on the brink of some dramatic change, that society constantly stands poised for some spasm, some tsunami in which you can do nothing but hope to bob up to the surface and not be sucked out into a dark and hungry sea. The origin of my permanent sense of unease, my general foreboding, is probably the fact that I have lived through just such change, such a sudden and violent upending of value systems.In my part of Africa, death is never far away. With more Zimbabweans dying in their early thirties now, mortality has a seat at every table. The urgent, tugging winds themselves seem to whisper the message, memento mori, you too shall die. In Africa, you do not view death from the auditorium of life, as a spectator, but from the edge of the stage, waiting only for your cue. You feel perishable, temporary, transient. You feel mortal. Maybe that is why you seem to live more vividly in Africa. The drama of life there is amplified by its constant proximity to death. That’s what infuses it with tension. It is the essence of its tragedy too. People love harder there. Love is the way that life forgets that it is terminal. Love is life’s alibi in the face of death. For me, the illusion of control is much easier to maintain in England or America. In this temperate world, I feel more secure, as if change will only happen incrementally, in manageable, finely calibrated, bite-sized portions. There is a sense of continuity threaded through it all: the anchor of history, the tangible presence of antiquity, of buildings, of institutions. You live in the expectation of reaching old age.At least you used to.But on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, those two states of mind converge. Suddenly it feels like I am back in Africa, where things can be taken away from you at random, in a single violent stroke, as quick as the whip of a snake’s head. Where tumult is raised with an abruptness that is as breathtaking as the violence itself.

-Peter Godwin

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To be, or not to be: that is the question:Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to sufferThe slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;No more; and by a sleep to say we endThe heart-ache and the thousand natural shocksThat flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummationDevoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;For in that sleep of death what dreams may comeWhen we have shuffled off this mortal coil,Must give us pause: there's the respectThat makes calamity of so long life;For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,The insolence of office and the spurnsThat patient merit of the unworthy takes,When he himself might his quietus makeWith a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,To grunt and sweat under a weary life,But that the dread of something after death,The undiscover'd country from whose bournNo traveller returns, puzzles the willAnd makes us rather bear those ills we haveThan fly to others that we know not of?Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;And thus the native hue of resolutionIs sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,And enterprises of great pith and momentWith this regard their currents turn awry,And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisonsBe all my sins remember'd!

-William Shakespeare

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Suppose after all that death does end all. Next to eternal joy, next to being forever with those we love and those who have loved us, next to that, is to be wrapt in the dreamless drapery of eternal peace. Next to eternal life is eternal sleep.Upon the shadowy shore of death the sea of trouble casts no wave. Eyes that have been curtained by the everlasting dark, will never know again the burning touch of tears. Lips touched by eternal silence will never speak again the broken words of grief. Hearts of dust do not break. The dead do not weep. Within the tomb no veiled and weeping sorrow sits, and in the rayless gloom is crouched no shuddering fear.I had rather think of those I have loved, and lost, as having returned to earth, as having become a part of the elemental wealth of the world – I would rather think of them as unconscious dust, I would rather dream of them as gurgling in the streams, floating in the clouds, bursting in the foam of light upon the shores of worlds, I would rather think of them as the lost visions of a forgotten night, than to have even the faintest fear that their naked souls have been clutched by an orthodox god.I will leave my dead where nature leaves them. Whatever flower of hope springs up in my heart I will cherish, I will give it breath of sighs and rain of tears. But I cannot believe that there is any being in this universe who has created a human soul for eternal pain. I would rather that every god would destroy himself; I would rather that we all should go to eternal chaos, to black and starless night, than that just one soul should suffer eternal agony.I have made up my mind that if there is a God, he will be merciful to the merciful.Upon that rock I stand. –That he will not torture the forgiving. –Upon that rock I stand. –That every man should be true to himself, and that there is no world, no star, in which honesty is a crime.Upon that rock I stand.The honest man, the good woman, the happy child, have nothing to fear, either in this world or the world to come.Upon that rock I stand.

-Robert G.

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[Robert's eulogy at his brother, Ebon C. Ingersoll's grave. Even the great orator Robert Ingersoll was choked up with tears at the memory of his beloved brother]The record of a generous life runs like a vine around the memory of our dead, and every sweet, unselfish act is now a perfumed flower.Dear Friends: I am going to do that which the dead oft promised he would do for me.The loved and loving brother, husband, father, friend, died where manhood's morning almost touches noon, and while the shadows still were falling toward the west.He had not passed on life's highway the stone that marks the highest point; but, being weary for a moment, he lay down by the wayside, and, using his burden for a pillow, fell into that dreamless sleep that kisses down his eyelids still. While yet in love with life and raptured with the world, he passed to silence and pathetic dust.Yet, after all, it may be best, just in the happiest, sunniest hour of all the voyage, while eager winds are kissing every sail, to dash against the unseen rock, and in an instant hear the billows roar above a sunken ship. For whether in mid sea or 'mong the breakers of the farther shore, a wreck at last must mark the end of each and all. And every life, no matter if its every hour is rich with love and every moment jeweled with a joy, will, at its close, become a tragedy as sad and deep and dark as can be woven of the warp and woof of mystery and death.This brave and tender man in every storm of life was oak and rock; but in the sunshine he was vine and flower. He was the friend of all heroic souls. He climbed the heights, and left all superstitions far below, while on his forehead fell the golden dawning, of the grander day.He loved the beautiful, and was with color, form, and music touched to tears. He sided with the weak, the poor, and wronged, and lovingly gave alms. With loyal heart and with the purest hands he faithfully discharged all public trusts.He was a worshipper of liberty, a friend of the oppressed. A thousand times I have heard him quote these words: 'For Justice all place a temple, and all season, summer!' He believed that happiness was the only good, reason the only torch, justice the only worship, humanity the only religion, and love the only priest. He added to the sum of human joy; and were every one to whom he did some loving service to bring a blossom to his grave, he would sleep to-night beneath a wilderness of flowers.Life is a narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities. We strive in vain to look beyond the heights. We cry aloud, and the only answer is the echo of our wailing cry. From the voiceless lips of the unreplying dead there comes no word; but in the night of death hope sees a star and listening love can hear the rustle of a wing.He who sleeps here, when dying, mistaking the approach of death for the return of health, whispered with his latest breath, 'I am better now.' Let us believe, in spite of doubts and dogmas, of fears and tears, that these dear words are true of all the countless dead.And now, to you, who have been chosen, from among the many men he loved, to do the last sad office for the dead, we give his sacred dust.Speech cannot contain our love. There was, there is, no gentler, stronger, manlier man.

-Robert G.

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Frank heard the glass of water thump on the stand that he now imagined might be beside the bed, which meant it was. Finally something firm to grasp, in his mind and with his hand. He reached out very slowly, as he didn’t want to risk tearing the gauze that was so precariously holding his vital organs together. He felt wood. His fingers slid shakily over the corners of the table, feeling their reality, their solidity. He tried to picture it in his head, all rough hewn and unpainted, but the white kept slipping in, even though he knew Mexicans rarely painted anything with a neutral color. Still, there it was, a whitewashed bed stand in his mind. He tried to overlook it, and reached up higher to find the glass cylinder full of what his body was screaming out for, water.That was why he felt so tight, he figured. His tissues and muscles had all dried up, and he needed to rehydrate them before even attempting to move. So at last, grasping the all important container, his fingers straining against its mighty heft, he slowly slipped it to and then off of the edge of the little table. Vast oceans of bluey refuge sloshed against their constraints, spilling their powerful waves over the side, across his sleeping hand, and onto the bed sheets below that were undoubtedly as white as Santa’s fucking beard.But the spill, the great cresting of the breakers over the levee walls, tremendous in its awesome power and glory, had only served to excite him, to intrigue him, the refreshment that the backside of his hand was lapping up osmotically served only to stoke the great thirst within him, and with God steadying his hand, he tipped his gauze laden head up, muscled the glass towards his mouth with veins rippling in his arms, and tipped it.It was not a perfect pour. Water splashed against his forehead, his eyes still clenched tightly in their death struggle against the white, as he had no idea where his mouth was at that point anyway. But he really didn’t give a shit where the life giving fluid went, for he had become a very gauzey sponge, and his tissues would reach their strange and parched tendrils across the entire room if they must to soak up the precious juices that would in turn dissolve their steely grip and allow him to rise from his low perch and sallie forth across the blue fields of agave that awaited a non-suicidal tourist’s itinerary, just outside the door he could not remember but which must surely be bolted to an opening that must surely be the gateway to the very room in which he must surely be attempting to drink.

-Thomas Alton

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I don’t want to read about them!” But really, how can a picture hurt you?Better that each serve as a Hallmark card that greets your fitful fevers with reason and uncurtains your valor. Then, so gospeled, you may see that defeating a disaster is as innocently easy as deciding to go out to dinner. Remove the dread that bars your doors of perception, and you will enjoy a banquet of treats that will make the difference between suffering and safety. You will enter a brave new world that will erase your panic, and release you from the grip of terror, and relieve you of the deadening effects of indifference —and you will find that switch of initiative that will energize your intelligence, empower your imagination, and rouse your sense of vigilance in ways that will tilt the odds of danger from being forever against you to being always in your favor. Indeed, just thinking about a disaster is one of the best things you can do —because it allows you to imagine how you would respond in a way that is free of pain and destruction.Another reason why disasters seem so scary is that many victims tend to see them as a whole rather than divide them into much smaller and more manageable problems. A disaster can seem overwhelming when confronted with everything at once —but if you dice it into its tiny parts and knock them off one at a time, the whole thing can seem as easy as eating a lavish dinner one bite at a time.In a disaster you must also plan for disruption as well as destruction. Death and damage may make the news, but in almost every disaster far more lives are disrupted than destroyed. Wit­ness the tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri, in May 2011 and killed 158 people. The path of death and destruction was less than a mile wide and only 22 miles long —but within thirty miles 160,000 citizens whose property didn’t suffer a dime of damage were profoundly disrupted by the carnage, loss of power and water, suspension of civic services, and inability to buy food, gas, and other necessities. You may rightfully believe your chances of dying in a disaster in your lifetime may be nearly nil, but the chances of your life being disrupted by a disaster in the next decade is nearly a sure thing.Not only should you prepare for disasters, you should learn to premeditate them. Prepare concerns the body; premeditate concerns the mind. Everywhere you go, think what could happen and how you might/could/would/should respond. Use your imagination. Fill your brain with these visualizations —run mind-movies in your head —develop a repertoire —until when you walk into a building/room/situation you’ll automatically know what to do. If a disaster does ambush you —sure you’re apt to panic, but in seconds your memory will load the proper video into your mobile disk drive and you’ll feel like you’re watching a scary movie for the second time and you’ll know what to expect and how to react. That’s why this book is important: its manner of vivifying disasters kickstarts and streamlines your acquiring these premeditations, which lays the foundation for satisfying your needs when a disaster catches you by surprise.

-Robert Brown

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Many individuals are so constituted that their only thought is to obtain pleasure and shun responsibility. They would like, butterfly-like, to wing forever in a summer garden, flitting from flower to flower, and sipping honey for their sole delight. They have no feeling that any result which might flow from their action should concern them. They have no conception of the necessity of a well-organized society wherein all shall accept a certain quota of responsibility and all realize a reasonable amount of happiness. They think only of themselves because they have not yet been taught to think of society. For them pain and necessity are the great taskmasters. Laws are but the fences which circumscribe the sphere of their operations. When, after error, pain falls as a lash, they do not comprehend that their suffering is due to misbehavior. Many such an individual is so lashed by necessity and law that he falls fainting to the ground, dies hungry in the gutter or rotting in the jail and it never once flashes across his mind that he has been lashed only in so far as he has persisted in attempting to trespass the boundaries which necessity sets. A prisoner of fate, held enchained for his own delight, he does not know that the walls are tall, that the sentinels of life are forever pacing, musket in hand. He cannot perceive that all joy is within and not without. He must be for scaling the bounds of society, for overpowering the sentinel. When we hear the cries of the individual strung up by the thumbs, when we hear the ominous shot which marks the end of another victim who has thought to break loose, we may be sure that in another instance life has been misunderstood--we may be sure that society has been struggled against until death alone would stop the individual from contention and evil.

-Theodore Dreiser

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