You will be missed.
I woke this morning to the news that Christopher Hitchens had died after a long and painful struggle with esophageal cancer. A few days ago I set aside his last column for Vanity Fair to read later, a piece titled “Trial of the Will,” where he questioned the underlying validity and truth of the maxim commonly attributed to Nietzsche, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” It’s a touching peace, one written by someone coming to terms with the suffering that he’s had to endure, and the reality of an end that is coming all too soon. I suppose it was a good piece to be his last.
This morning, Vanity Fair had this to say,
Christopher Hitchens—the incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant—died today at the age of 62. Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in the spring of 2010, just after the publication of his memoir, Hitch-22, and began chemotherapy soon after. His matchless prose has appeared in Vanity Fair since 1992, when he was named contributing editor.
“Cancer victimhood contains a permanent temptation to be self-centered and even solipsistic,” Hitchens wrote nearly a year ago in Vanity Fair, but his own final labors were anything but: in the last 12 months, he produced for this magazine a piece on U.S.-Pakistani relations in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, a portrait of Joan Didion, an essay on the Private Eye retrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a prediction about the future of democracy in Egypt, a meditation on the legacy of progressivism in Wisconsin, and a series of frank, graceful, and exquisitely written essays in which he chronicled the physical and spiritual effects of his disease. At the end, Hitchens was more engaged, relentless, hilarious, observant, and intelligent than just about everyone else—just as he had been for the last four decades.
“My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends,” he wrote in the June 2011 issue. He died in their presence, too, at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. May his 62 years of living, well, so livingly console the many of us who will miss him dearly.
So this morning I’d just like to say thank you to Mr. Hitchens for being a thinker, a rationalist, and a true heir of the Enlightenment. Thank you for promoting free-thought in an age of conformity, and for your intellectual fearlessness. I feel at a loss for words, since his words meant so much to me and to so many others. As stated so perfectly by rational warrior in a short tribute video, “Well done, Sir.”
To read other’s thoughts on the passing of this great man, read this touching series of obituaries from Richard Dawkins’ site.