Bioethics Blogs

Oliver Wendell Holmes on Death (audio from 1931)

Here is a recording of Oliver Wendell Holmes commenting about death in 1931 on his 90th birthday.  He retired from the court just a few weeks later. 


“In this symposium my part is only to sit in silence. To express one’s feelings as the end draws near is too intimate a task. But one thought that comes to me as a listener-in. The riders in the race do not stop short when they reach the goal. There is a little finishing canter before coming to a standstill. There is time to hear the kind voice of friends and to say to oneself that the work is done.”


“But just as one says that, the answer comes: The race is over, but the work never is done while the power to work remains. The canter that brings you to a standstill need not be only coming to rest. It cannot be while you still live, but to live is to function. That is all there is. And so I end with a line from a Latin poet, who uttered the message more than fifteen-hundred years ago, Death, death, plucks my ear, and says, ‘Live. I am  coming.'”  (HT: John Blackman)

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