Friday, December 16, 2011

Farewell, Christopher

Damn, Friday. You sure took your own sweet time in getting here.

Whatever. Welcome. I ain't madatcha. As long as you don't throw any left hooks into what looks to be an pretty uneventful day. You already started on a little bummer of a note - I was sad to hear of Christopher Hitchens passing. But glad in knowing he was feisty and opinionated until the end.

Sure, there is a lot to not like about Hitchens. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'll get static from M for my status updates and tweets this morning praising him. He glorified the vices of smoking and drinking and I'm guessing he could easily draw you to tears and get some glee from it if you got on his bad side. But I can say this - every time I have read or heard him, there was always at least a moment, often more, where I thought:

"damn. I wish I had written that."

I recall driving a few hours to a work meeting and listening to an interview on public radio. His voice was tired and a bit slow, but the aggression was still there. He wondered aloud about what was so fucking "noble" about "fighting" cancer and questioned the language of the "survivor." I so wish I had exact quotes to share with you this morning but the gist of his questioning was:

how can they say I am fighting cancer when this disease has waged a war on me? AND it's truly kicking my ass. We're all pretty well aware of who will eventually win. This was not my choice, not my design, nothing I needed to prove to myself. I am simply trying not to die.

There is no bravado here. Simply words that I think most people living with or through cancer have often felt. I know I have. Stop making me out to be a goddamn hero and just stop pushing poison into my veins m'kay? I never tried to be brave. In fact, I don't recall ever, ever, ever having a choice in the matter. Which was pretty much Hitchens' point, made far more eloquently.

"He seldom produced an uninteresting sentence," is what the Washington Post said this morning.

Whoa.

What writer doesn't strive for this to be his/her eulogy? What tribute means more than this?

If you've never read any of Hitchens' essay, might I suggest this one? Because I think there are some pieces here to which we can all relate:

"...one thing that grave illness [or loss, my insertion] does is to make you examine familiar principles and seemingly reliable sayings. And there’s one that I find I am not saying with quite the same conviction as I once used to: In particular, I have slightly stopped issuing the announcement that “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”

3 comments:

Carla said...

I too am saddened by his death. Many people do not like him. For those that do, he will be greatly missed.

Mo and Will said...

Beautiful post. I agree completely with his feelings on being cast into the unwanted role of cancer warrior. those of us who have had to deal with that diagnosis have just done what we could to survive, "simply trying not to die."

I will check out the essay you recommend. Compelling quote/excerpt you shared.

Unfortunately, another great mind lost.

Mo

Two Shorten the Road said...

That last saying is one of the only typical platitudes that I still think can be true in many cases. In this case, the cancer didn't make him stronger... and it did kill him.

The one I hate is "God never gives you more than you can handle." When people say that to anyone in my vicinity, I want to punch them in the face.

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