Death & Dying

"Illness and death are not failures. What happens to our bodies is ultimately up to our cells, not our souls."


"You've never lived till you've almost died. For those who fight for it life has a flavour the protected will never know. "


"There was no magic encounter for me with a whale in the ocean; no being zapped by a whale as I snorkelled in their world. Nothing visible or capable of explanation. In fact, I'd never seen a whale. When I first witnessed their terrible death agony, I couldn't get the picture of a whale being harpooned out of my mind. It was a hideous mind-blowing sight. That day I recognised a purpose on the journey of my life. "


"I still trust in it. I have helped a lot of patients on their deathbeds, people who have had a lot of regrets, who didn't live the way they might have, but when they are dying, their soul opens up like a rosebud, and you can see the beauty and goodness in them."

DR HELEN, CALDICOTT - on innate goodness

"The more we talk, the less we fear. Once people talk it out, they can get on with living, and it's not hanging there, like the sword of Damocles over their head."

MOLLY, CARLILE - death talker motto

"Sometimes young people do die and it's really hard, but you can't do anything to avoid it. But do your best to think about safe ways of doing things and just enjoying the living of your life and not being paranoid about going out too much or eating too much chocolate."


"Grief is like a fingerprint, it's unique to everyone, and so is the way you process it. "


"I always get upset when I do this because it means someone has to die so that someone else can live... "


"The reaction to my long-term partner, Neelam, on receiving the news of my illness shook and startled me in the extremity of its distress. This was love of quite another order and although I never doubted my love for Neelam, the nature of that love changed quite dramatically. In short, I fell in love all over again but on a new and deeper plain. I discovered I could give myself up to love in a way I had never had before because I was certain my feelings were returned. I could moon about like some crappy-faced teenager and not feel the slightest embarrassment. And that gave me a glorious feeling of liberation. "

LAURIE, CLANCY - from his self-penned eulogy

"There are times in life when we have to face the big questions, to look squarely into the face of death and then affirm the sheer gift of life. "


"But now, the final feeling is one of gratitude that the journey was undertaken. Looking at the past has meant, for the first time, being able to let it go. "

RUTH, CRACKNELL - A Biased Memoir

"Knowing that one dies has brought with it a peace that before was elusive to say the least... it is useless, if at times pleasurable, to fantasise about the future. It is not here and it is not known. In the same way the past is just that. Past. Gone. To be relinquished. 'What's done cannot be undone.' Now is what it's about. Life is still to be lived, suffered, enjoyed, battled over. "

RUTH, CRACKNELL - A Biased Memoir

"The thing I have learnt about death... is it is the fundamental boundary that constrains humanity because it makes us appreciate life: its brevity and its sweetness. Death is the bottle that holds the wine of life and it is through the prism of mortality that we gaze at our existence. We know death is there, all around us, waiting, and that is why the wine is so dazzling, because it cannot last forever."


"It wasn't a matter of if, it was a matter of when. The little bastards were going to get me. It was a weird sensation, almost an out-of-body experience. I don't think I'll ever be able to explain it."

BELINDA, EMMETT - On being told the bone cancer would claim her life:

"I can remember crawling through the window where he was in the hospital... He said, 'You have a gift... keep training for me.' I s'pose those were the last words he ever spoke to me."

DAWN, FRASER - on her brother Donnie who died of leukemia when she was thirteen

"People die because they find living too painful. "


"What to do when someone we know is battling a serious illness? "Nothing" is the answer most of us settle on. As a society, we're lousy at bereavement and worse with sickness."


"Such is life, my fellow-mummers - just like a poor player that bluffs and feints his hour upon the stage, and then cheapens down to mere nonentity. But let me not hear any small witticism to the further effect that its story is a tale told by a vulgarian, full of slang and blanky, signifying - nothing. "

JOSEPH, FURPHY - Tom Collins, Such is Life

"I live my life the way it is. I'm an atheist. You do this, then you're dead."


"When you're with someone, when they pass away, when they die, it's very final, you know. You know they've gone. And that's why life is so precious. You just have to trust. When someone's spirit goes, where does it go? I still think it surrounds you."


"You have a huge ache in your heart when you lose someone you love, and it never goes away."

GABI, HOLLOWS - on loss

"Stop worrying. Nobody gets out of this world alive. "


"Everyday above ground is a good one. "


"It is not that I fear death, I fear it as little as to drink a cup of tea. "


"People need to weep about what has happened to them, to rail and scream, and talk and write about it until they get to a place where they say, 'Yes that did happen to me, but that's it."


"Recognising the purpose of human existence is to relinquish everything that has become 'second nature' to us, by revealing to ourselves what is our 'first nature'. It is our 'second nature' to go into whatever the patterns of the past might be... serious challenges in life, such as diagnosis, death, divorce, drought, debt, despair confront us with the opportunity to let go of these patterns and discover a deeper, more eternal, more authentic part of ourselves."


"Peace is not a passive, wishy-washy state of acceptance. It is a state of being in which we are able to embrace every moment, regardless of its challenges, with a quiet mind and open, compassionate heart."


"My sisters and I miss our dad dreadfully. But grief, of course, is the price of love."


"Being constrained, not able to share what you are thinking and feeling, especially with those you love deeply, is cruel, almost as cruel as cancer itself."

CHRISTINE, LISTER - The Hidden Journey

"Cancer touches the lives of countless numbers of people, sufferers and those who suffer because they are forced to bear witness to the suffering cancer causes. No one emerges unscathed."

CHRISTINE, LISTER - The Hidden Journey

"There is nothing so awful it can't be shared."

CHRISTINE, LISTER - The Hidden Journey

"Keeping the darkness inside is like a never-ending winter in your heart."

CHRISTINE, LISTER - The Hidden Journey

"Cancer is as much a mental game as a physical one. I don't know that it is going to be a long one the way things are shaping up. It doesn't matter whether it's short or long. I am here, in it for the duration, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health. I made those vows nearly 27 years ago and I still make them today."

CHRISTINE, LISTER - The Hidden Journey

"Death, like spring, brings with it the promise of renewal and new beginnings. "

CHRISTINE, LISTER - The Hidden Journey

"Cancer is a cruel disease. Almost as cruel is the conventional wisdom and etiquette that dictates how cancer victims and those closest to them are expected to behave in the face of its onslaught. It is embedded into our psyche that strength, stoicism or spirituality are the faces we show against this evil. "

CHRISTINE, LISTER - The Hidden Journey

"When cancer strikes it changes your life, but it doesn't change who you are. Your essence remains. The paradox is that although you are the same person you are indelibly and irrevocably changed."

CHRISTINE, LISTER - The Hidden Journey

"The bulbs should flower in a month or so. The place will be a picture of colour, smell and beauty. All the rockwork and the planting of hundreds of bulbs will come to fruition. The lemon and lime trees are languishing, in need of water and food, a bit like me. I'm in need of nourishment for the brain, food for the soul and solace for the spirit. I wonder how long we will have together."

CHRISTINE, LISTER - The Hidden Journey

"Cancer is confronting. It strikes at the heart and mind as much as the body. Life approximates a seesaw swinging wildly from one dichotomy to the other and back again. The natural rhythm and equilibrium of living is shattered. So too is your sense of personal safety and control over your life."

CHRISTINE, LISTER - The Hidden Journey

"Society lauds those who are courageous and brave in their battles with cancer, labelling them heroes. Falling prey to the fear and strong emotions cancer invokes is seen as giving in. Controlling your emotions is equated to controlling the ravages of the disease. Any overt signs or intimations of weakness are generally frowned upon."

CHRISTINE, LISTER - The Hidden Journey

"The earth's warmth under me, as I stretch out at night, is astonishing. It is like the warmth of another body that has absorbed the sun all day and now gives out again its store of heat. It is softer, darker than I could ever have believed, and when I take a handful of it and smell its extraordinary odors, I know suddenly what it is I am composed of, as if the energy that is in this fistful of black soil had suddenly opened, between my body and it, as between it and the green stalks, some corridor along which our common being flowed."

DAVID, MALOUF - An Imaginary Life

"I no longer fear it. I lie down to sleep, and wonder if, in the looseness of sleep, I mightn't strike down roots along all the length of my body, and as I enter the first dream, almost feel it begin to happen, feel my individual pores open to the individual grains of the earth, as the interchange begins. When I wake I am entirely reconciled to the process. I shall settle deep into the earth, deeper than I do in sleep, and will not be lost. We are continuous with earth in all the particles of our physical being, as in our breathing we are continuous with sky. Between our bodies and the world there is unity and commerce."

DAVID, MALOUF - An Imaginary Life

"There is room in this world for everything and that's one of the things about ageing - as we age we sit more comfortably in our skin so that we become more truly who we really are, and that means that we become diverse. When we accept death it seems to me that it frees us up to live more fully exactly how we want to live. We know there is an end point. And it's getting closer and closer."


"Age does work as a cruel and inexorable partner to the mongrel fate and genetic legacy that render many lives difficult, if not miserable or worse."


"It is the certainty of death that renders existence meaningful, gives each moment value. Eternal life is my definition of absurdity; and of hell. Were life - as opposed to the soul - endless, nothing would have any relative merit or interest."


"I don't believe in a life hereafter. Like Julius Caesar, I think that death is an eternal sleep."


"Great writers tackle the mysteries of human personality and dark existential concerns. Reading them, we feel less alone."


"Having had cancer, one important thing to know is you're still the same person at the end. You're stripped down to near zero. But most people come out the other end feeling more like themselves than ever before."


"Children remind us of the wonder of the world, and so does a scrape with death... it's like moving from 2D to 3D."

DRUSILLA, MODJESKA - on her breast cancer diagnosis

"And it feels like so long since I felt
The sun on my face
Why did it take so long
To find this place
If it were not for this
I'd never have known
Never have known
Never have known or felt
Such a beautiful thing."


"Indeed, so deep is my pleasure in the work of the garden that, if there be a dimension after death in which grieving for the loss of the world of senses is possible, I shall grieve for no person however once agonisingly desired and passionately beloved, for no emotional adventure however uplifting, for no success however warming, no infamy however exhilarating, for nothing half so much as I shall grieve to the loss of the earth itself, the soil, the seeds, the plants, the very weeds... It is a love almost overriding my love the words that could express that love."

HAL, PORTER - The Watcher on the Cast Iron Balcony

"I have come to the realization that the essential healing element within the music I play for those who are sick and vulnerable, is the offering of expressed musically. In my own simple way I now find that I am able to reach out to people through my music and draw them into an experience where they feel the loving presence of a caring stranger who offers tenderness, compassion, consolation and support in their difficulty. In a very short time we enter into an intimate communion with each other created through the musical offering and an attentive, caring presence. Words fall away, the experience needs none. The time together often concludes in comfortable, languid silence... a reverie that I don't want to disturb. The experience is very tangible. Mystery is encountered, but the outcomes are measurable. "


"The cancer patient can share the experience, but not the cancer. Yet it is now part of their being. It is not their partners, but it affects their partner. It is not their family's, but it affects their family. It is not their friends, yet their friends grieve for the challenge to longevity that it presents. It is the patient's and the patient is the one who has to negotiate meaning from it and an identity that incorporates it. "

IAN, ROOS - COSA Conference, Melbourne November 2006.

"Even if you did a randomised control trial that showed there was no advantage in providing patients with information it would still be my right as a human being to have that information. "

IAN, ROOS - The Challenge of Research and Supportive Care in Cancer 2005

"There are so may ways to kills yourself, they're just old-fashioned with their permanganate: do you think I'd take permanganate? I wouldn't want to burn my insides out and live to tell the tale as well: idiots! It's simple, I'd drown myself... Why be in misery at the last?"

CHRISTINA, STEAD - The Man Who Loved Children

"When faced with death the ego just drops its barriers. "


"If you can let go of that fear in life then you can do anything. It allows you to really let go and chase the things you really want to do in your life and live out the life you were born to live. "


"You know, we talk about birth rites. I think we should consider more about a death right. I think everybody should have the right to die in the company of their family, in peace and dignity and security. We don't have that at present."

RODNEY, SYME - A Good Death

"Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light"

RODNEY, SYME - A Good Death

"Every day I come into the office I know that there will be some beautiful person who put all their trust in me who will have died... It is so depressing; it is so, so sad. But I am still at the stage where I get so much joy out of helping people that the sadness hasn't overwhelmed me yet. I hope I give it up before I get to that stage."


"When honour is lost - it is a relief to die."


"Books cannot postpone death - that is the job of medicine. But certain books, by showing us the inner fullness of individual life, can rescue us from a limited view of ourselves and one another."


"One has to accept pain as a condition of existence. One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to the total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying. "


"Art is the thrilling spark that beats death - that's all."