One man’s date with death

Charles 3 Comments

You saw the news that Christopher Hitchens has cancer? I suppose we all wonder how we would feel and conduct ourselves were the news to be broken to us, so there is something compelling about listening to and observing someone else for whom the dread summons has come. Here are some extracts from what Hitchens wrote for Vanity Fair:

I have more than once in my time woken up feeling like death. But nothing prepared me for the early morning last June when I came to consciousness feeling as if I were actually shackled to my own corpse. The whole cave of my chest and thorax seemed to have been hollowed out and then refilled with slow-drying cement. I could faintly hear myself breathe but could not manage to inflate my lungs. My heart was beating either much too much or much too little. Any movement, however slight, required forethought and planning. It took strenuous effort for me to cross the room of my New York hotel and summon the emergency services

The notorious stage theory of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, whereby one progresses from denial to rage through bargaining to depression and the eventual bliss of “acceptance,” hasn’t so far had much application in my case. In one way, I suppose, I have been “in denial” for some time, knowingly burning the candle at both ends and finding that it often gives a lovely light. But for precisely that reason, I can’t see myself smiting my brow with shock or hear myself whining about how it’s all so unfair: I have been taunting the Reaper into taking a free scythe in my direction and have now succumbed to something so predictable and banal that it bores even me. Rage would be beside the point for the same reason. Instead, I am badly oppressed by a gnawing sense of waste. I had real plans for my next decade and felt I’d worked hard enough to earn it.

Against me is the blind, emotionless alien, cheered on by some who have long wished me ill. But on the side of my continued life is a group of brilliant and selfless physicians plus an astonishing number of prayer groups.

Not that Hitch is turning to God, of course. Not all Christians are praying for him, either. And a lot of his political enemies are delighted. One of them concluded a blog post thus: “Happy dying, Hitch, you sick, seedy, disreputable fucking bastard.” No stranger to controversy, our Hitch.

Read the entire article here.

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13 years ago

Hitchen’s political enemy, as quoted, should be utterly ashamed of himself. Whatever CH wrote and said, he is dying. That blogger is denying his own humanity and crapping on his own sense of natural compassion to write such a thing. The blogger has, obviously enough, reduced himself to the same level as the lowest thing CH wrote or said that so enraged the blogger. Sad.

Charles Cowling
13 years ago

I agree with you, GM. How could anybody not be affected by compassion. In some of his interviews Hitchens looks downcast, unhappy, even frightened. The man’s ideas are one thing, but the man himself is one of us.

Rupert Callender
13 years ago

One of us indeed Charles.
I am sad for the man. Never, ever boring, that’s for sure.