Diseases have no eyes. They pick with a dizzy finger anyone, just anyone.

Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Life is made up of uncertainty. Each time we breathe out, we don’t know if we’ll breathe in again. Each time we risk stepping forward, we don’t know what we’ll encounter. . . . Despite all our efforts to picture the unfolding of events as managed, orderly, fixed, we don’t know what will happen next.

Sharon Salzberg

There were lymph glands that might do him in. . . . There were fertile red meadows of epithelial tissue to catch and coddle a cancer cell. . . . There were billions of conscientious body cells oxidating away day and night like dumb animals at their complicated job of keeping him alive and healthy, and every one was a potential traitor and foe. . . . Hungry Joe collected lists of fatal diseases and arranged them in alphabetical order so that he could put his finger without delay on any one he wanted to worry about.

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

It is characteristic of all deep human problems that they are not to be approached without some humor and some bewilderment.

Freeman Dyson

Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.

Lord Byron

Sick people need immediate help, understanding, and humanity almost as much as they need highly standardized and efficient practice.

S. Josephine Baker

Sometimes I have a terrible feeling that I am dying not from the virus, but from being untouchable.

Amanda Heggs, AIDS patient

So much in a relationship changes when a partner is seriously ill, helpless yet blameless, and indefatigably needy.

Diane Ackerman

In the last six months of her life, it was as if Treya and I went into spiritual overdrive for each other, serving each other in every way that we could. I finally quit the bitching and moaning that is so normal for a support person. . . . And she quit the bitching and moaning about how her cancer had “wrecked” my life. For the simple fact was, we together had made a pact, on some profound level, to see her through this ordeal, come what may. It was a profound choice. We were both very, very, very clear about this, particularly during the last six months. We simply and directly served each other, exchanging self for other, and therefore glimpsing that eternal Spirit which transcends both self and other, both “me” and “mine.”

Ken Wilber

There are times when sympathy is as necessary as the air we breathe.

Rose Pastor Stokes

Never forget that it is not a pneumonia, but a pneumonic man who is your patient.

William Withey Gull

Nurses are there when the last breath is taken and nurses are there when the first breath is taken. Although it is more enjoyable to celebrate the birth, it is just as important to comfort in death.

Christine Bell

I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders.

Jewish proverb

At the core of life is a hard purposefulness, a determination to live.

Howard Thurman

Do not believe that he who seeks to comfort you lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life has much difficulty and sadness. . . . Were it otherwise he would never have been able to find those words.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Open your eyes and look for some man, or some work for the sake of men, which needs a little time, a little friendship, a little sympathy, a little sociability, a little human toil. . . . [It] is needed in every nook and corner. Therefore search and see if there is not some place where you may invest your humanity.

Albert Schweitzer

Down in their hearts, wise men know this truth: the only way to help yourself is to help others.

Elbert Hubbard