This paper examines the interplay between gratitude and gratefulness in connection to accepting terminal illness and the finality of death in the autobiographical writing of Jenny Diski and Oliver Sacks, who died of cancer in 2016 and 2015 respectively. Instead of focusing solely on the embodied experiences of illness or on the desire to be remembered, the paper explores the personal and public dimensions of writing about terminal illness through expressions and representations of gratitude and gratefulness. Memoir and other forms of life writing manifest the process of seeking closure, and in end-of-life writing this endeavour is even more prominent. Diski narrates the humiliating procedures cancer treatment may involve, while Sacks’s autobiography and final essay collection exude a sense of urgency as time is running out. Both writers ponder the meaning of gratitude as a way to come to terms with their illnesses. Expressions of gratitude also work towards acceptance of the ill body while still creating distance to it, enabling the retention of a sense of self not defined by illness. This is a central feature of the texts examined.