I have a friend and co-worker with Stage 4 cancer.  His prognosis is lousy, but the good thing is that my friend, and the rest of us, pretty much know how much time he's got left.  Though not necessarily "avowed," my friend shows all the signs of an atheist's worldview, and I want to offer him the kind of support that religion traditionally offers to believers.  He doesn't need "hope" messages -- we know the end is near.  I'm talking about confronting death itself, head-on.


I'm looking for your help for 2 related things:


1. Ideas that put life and death in perspective for non-believers, which I can use 1-on-1 to help my friend accept and embrace this final stage.  He is in his later 60's -- still with plenty of time left had cancer not intervened, but he's also left a hell of a legacy.


2. Quotes, facts, poems or literary references that I might use for his eulogy.  I know it sounds a bit mechanical to research this while he's still with us, but I don't want to get caught short.  My role in the workplace means his family will be looking to me, and I want to be prepared.


I would be grateful for any ideas you have, or perhaps any published resources that bear upon these questions.  Thank you so much.

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I've always been fond of the idea that once we die, our body stays here and decomposes, providing nutrients and materials for new life to grow. It's the ultimate recycling program. Likewise, our energy will leave to go do something else in the universe, mingling with the energy of everything else.

And if his legacy is as awesome as you say, there's an awesome quote to match: "Everyone lives. Everyone dies. Not everyone is missed." I'm sure I mangled the quote, and I have no idea who first said it.

Hope this helps.

Well... only if you are burned on a pire or entered without a modern casket... otherwise you remain a chemical emulsion in a box for a very long time and don't contribute anything positive to the earth you're surrounded by. ;p

I don't know about comforting... does he appear to need actual "comforting"?

I'd suggest making peace with family and friends who may have fallen to the wayside.

I don't think most atheists need "comforting" unless as a reprieve from pain...

Every single proton and neutron that make up every single atom and molecule in my body, and your body, and the bodies of every person that has ever existed and ever will exist, were created at the beginning of the universe just after the Big Bang. And every one of those protons and neutrons, in some shape or form, will exist for as long as the universe does.

There's something simple and beautiful about the truth and even though we don't live forever, at least every little bit of us will always exist as a part of this Universe, our Universe, whether it be in a blade of grass, the air we breathe, the clouds of a nebula or the heart of a brilliant, burning star.




That's what I find comforting, but I'm not sure how much comfort it would be to someone who is actually dying. I hope it helps in some small way. My mom died after an 8 year battle with cancer last month so I have some idea of what you're going through, but I know everyone is different. Your attitude, strength and practicality in such a situation is very admirable, your friend is lucky to have someone like you as support. Keep doing whatever you're doing, because he'll need you. Good luck.


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