Christopher Hitchens is dead. I put it bluntly, I need to, because I felt this brief urge to say that he's gone, even though neither he nor I believed there is a set destination waiting for us. As one gives up on their faith for a better place in afterlife, a relentless void takes over its place, with a size depending on their previous investments for it. More often than not, it is large enough to keep one's mind busy. I don't think most people -including my family- are aware of the amount of courage it takes to face the truth that one day we're going to simply disappear, and afterwards we will never be able to see our loved ones again. That, we are truly mortal.
We all knew that "there is no stage five", he certainly did. Coming into terms with death is hard as it is, but he took his own death head on and continued to fight until the very end, until he was completely unable to.
Hitchens is dead, but there is still comfort to be felt, and a genuine one, even for an unbeliever. Ann Druyan once put it quite elegantly for her husband Carl Sagan:
When my husband died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me -it still sometimes happens- and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again. Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don't ever expect to be reunited with Carl. But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief and precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous - not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural. We knew we were beneficiaries of chance... That pure chance could be so generous and so kind... That we could find each other, as Carl wrote so beautifully in Cosmos, you know, in the vastness of space and the immensity of time... That we could be together for twenty years. That is something which sustains me and it's much more meaningful... The way he treated me and the way I treated him, the way we took care of each other and our family, while he lived. That is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don't think I'll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful.
Hitch... With a certain attitude that I'm normally not very fond of, you said what needs to be said, and you said them good. Despite our disagreements on some issues, you've become one of my intellectual heroes. Your courage and frankness was a source of inspiration, and your unmatched rhetoric skills -that I will most likely never achieve- revealed a rarely felt emotion, envy. Your voice is gone, for the second time, and we certainly have lost one of the finest comrades in our fight against celestial dictatorship. But you will not be forgotten, and you shall be missed. Thanks for all the hitchslaps. Farewell.