Christopher Hitchens Addresses Life, Dying In ‘Mortality’
Christopher Hitchens was faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis and the certainty that he would be dead within months, so the always outspoken author dealt with the situation the only way he knew how — by writing about it.
Hitchens final book, Mortality, looks at the process of dying and death as if it were a character in the drama of his life, the Los Angeles Times reported. The painful revelation of his own mortality was captured in the book’s first sentence:
“I have more than once in my time woken up feeling like death. But nothing prepared me for the early morning in 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 am badly oppressed by the gnawing sense of waste. I had real plans for my next decade and felt I’d worked hard enough to earn it. Will I really not live to see my children married? To watch the World Trade Center rise again? To read — if not indeed to write — the obituaries of elderly villains like Henry Kissinger and Joseph Ratzinger? But I understand this sort of non-thinking for what it is: sentimentality and self-pity.”
That final 19 months of his life would be spent in sort of in-between state, Hitchens’ wife Carol Blue wrote for the Telegraph:
Everything was as it should be, except that it wasn’t. We were living in two worlds. The old one, which never seemed more beautiful, had not yet vanished; and the new one, about which we knew little except to fear it, had not yet arrived.
The new world lasted 19 months. During this time of what he called “living dyingly”, he insisted ferociously on living, and his constitution, physical and philosophical, did all it could to stay alive.
But the end came sooner than expected for Christopher Hitchens, his wife noted. The author and outspoken atheist was admitted to the hospital for what he thought would be a short stay, hoping for more time to write the longer version of Mortality he initially had in mind.
But even in his last days, Hitchens remained optimistic for the time he had left.
“Sorry for the delay, I’ll be back home soon,” Christopher Hitchens told an editor soon before his death.