Gone Too Soon

Posted: December 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

I had mentioned in an earlier post that I would surely want to compose one or more entries on Christopher Hitchens at some point. I had not planned on doing that just yet, but Hitch died last night and this has been weighing heavily on me all day.

Hitch was a hero to me. I did not expect to be this bothered by his death. I had just turned off all the lights last night and was on my way in the dark to my room when my phone beeped. My brother had been doing some web browsing and saw the news on Hitch. He emailed me to tell me. I read his message on my glowing phone in the dark and uttered “noooo” in the silence. Twitter was buzzing with confirmation. I didn’t get to sleep for another hour.

Hitch died of pneumonia complications, long suffering from esophageal cancer. As he withered away physically over the past year, he continued to write some amazing stuff. He wrote a gut-wrenching account of losing his voice to the disease – a huge loss to one of the finest orators and debaters of our time. In his last Vanity Fair column (January 2012) he challenges the assertion “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger,” and wonders why he ever thought it to be profound.

When I got up this morning I put my audiobook version of his memoir Hitch-22 on my phone so I could give it a re-listen in the car. Hitch reads it himself. His reading of the book’s prologue brought tears to my eyes. He wrote the prologue to his book in late 2008, before he had been diagnosed. He speaks of the timing of writing a memoir. Too early? That may end up being awkward. He worried that there was always the possibility that the project was begun too late. As it turns out, his timing was, unfortunately, perfect. He tells a story of a recent article in which he was mistakenly referred to as the late Christopher Hitchens, and how deeply disturbing being killed off by an editing error can be. He jokes about his own obituary and how he’s sure it is already written. It was tough to listen to…

I made my way through the day occasionally reading wonderfully written tributes (http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/christopher-hitchens), occasionally coming across nauseating and condescending comments (shit stain Rick Warren: “Hitchens has died. I loved & prayed for him & grieve his loss. He knows the Truth now.”). I was in a deep funk all day. If you are a Republican, this is how you felt when Reagan died; Catholic, Pope John Paul II; technophile, Steve Jobs… you get the idea.

Hitch will live on in his books, essays, lectures and debates. Turn off the shitty reality TV and spend some time with him. You won’t regret it.

I’m drinking to you tonight, Hitch.


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