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The Long Goodbye

Meghan O'Rourke

Top 10 Best Quotes

“Sometimes you don't even know what you want until you find out you can't have it.”

“One of the grubby truths about a loss is that you don't just mourn the dead person, you mourn the person you got to be when the lost one was alive. This loss might even be what affects you most.”

“Nothing prepared me for the loss of my mother. Even knowing that she would die did not prepare me. A mother, after all, is your entry into the world. She is the shell in which you divide and become a life. Waking up in a world without her is like waking up in a world without sky: unimaginable.”

“The people we most love do become a physical part of us, ingrained in our synapses, in the pathways where memories are created.”

“If the condition of grief is nearly universal, its transactions are exquisitely personal.”

“In the months that followed my mother's death, I managed to look like a normal person. I walked the street; I answered my phone; I brushed my teeth; most of the time. But I was not OK. I was in grief. Nothing seemed important. Daily tasks were exhausting. Dishes piled in the sink, knives crusted with strawberry jam. At one point I did not wash my hair for ten days. I felt that I had abruptly arrived at a terrible, insistent truth about the impermanence of everyday.”

“Grief is paradoxical: you know you must let go, and yet letting go cannot happen all at once. The literature of mourning enacts that dilemma; its solace lies in the ritual of remembering the dead and then saying, There is no solace, and also, This has been going on a long time.”

“So much of dealing with a disease is waiting. Waiting for appointments, for tests, for "procedures." And waiting, more broadly, for it--for the thing itself, for the other shoe to drop. Except in the waiting you keep forgetting that "it" will really happen--it's more like a threat, an anxiety: Will my love love me forever?”

“I heard a lot about the idea of dying "with dignity" while my mother was sick. It was only near her very end that I gave much thought to what this idea meant. I didn't actually feel it was undignified for my mother's body to fail--that was the human condition. Having to help my mother on and off the toilet was difficult, but it was natural. The real indignity, it seemed, was dying where no one cared for you the way your family did, dying where it was hard for your whole family to be with you and where excessive measures might be taken to keep you alive past a moment that called for letting go. I didn't want that for my mother. I wanted her to be able to go home. I didn't want to pretend she wasn't going to die.”

“People do not want to confront the existential mess that is life. They want to check things off--OK, you're OK. And just because you can talk about your grief, you know," she said, looking sharply at me, "doesn't mean you are in control of it, or that you know what's going on. You are in the ocean. And what you think, what you analyze, that is just the descanting of that ocean. Your mind is an ocean and it has scary things in it. While you may be able to analyze your grief at three p.m., that has nothing to do with how you feel at three a.m., in the dark center of night.”

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Book Keywords:

death, death-with-dignity, human-condition, dignity, death-and-dying, need, desire, analysis, loss, cancer, patience, dying-with-dignity, books, illness, change, want, grief-and-loss, life, solace, literature, grieving, mind, brain, grief, waiting, mourning, dying

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