Now, having seen the way that Hitchens is handling himself since learning that he suffers from stage 4 esophagus cancer, I admire the man more than ever. Hitchens was an avowed atheist before he had cancer, and he is an avowed atheist today. I have always believed the classic saying that "there are no atheists in foxholes" to be a true one, and I figured it would probably be pretty much the same story with deathbeds - that those given half the chance would hedge their bets on the way out the door. Somehow, though, I don't think God will be hearing from Christopher Hitchens. Some will say what a terrible mistake Hitchens is making; others, like me, will say bravo, Mr. Hitchens. You, sir, are an inspiration.
The latest from Hitchens is a December Vanity Fair piece in which he discusses the etiquette of cancer:
It’s normally agreed that the question “How are you?” doesn’t put you on your oath to give a full or honest answer. So when asked these days, I tend to say something cryptic like “A bit early to say.” (If it’s the wonderful staff at my oncology clinic who inquire, I sometimes go so far as to respond, “I seem to have cancer today.”) Nobody wants to be told about the countless minor horrors and humiliations that become facts of “life” when your body turns from being a friend to being a foe...[...]
But it’s not really possible to adopt a stance of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” either. Like its original, this is a prescription for hypocrisy and double standards. Friends and relatives, obviously, don’t really have the option of not making kind inquiries. One way of trying to put them at their ease is to be as candid as possible and not to adopt any sort of euphemism or denial. So I get straight to the point and say what the odds are. The swiftest way of doing this is to note that the thing about Stage Four is that there is no such thing as Stage Five.What some people, one motherly type in particular, say to Hitchens is hard to read without grinding one's teeth at the sheer stupidity of the human race.
That Hitchens still calls them as he sees them is obvious. If you don't believe me, take a look at the end of the Vanity Fair article to see what he thinks of the book and video of The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch's farewell to the world.
You are still the man, Mr. Hitchens.