They weren’t “I’ve found Jesus!”
In anticipation of his final book Mortality, to be released on September 4th, his widow Carol Blue penned an afterword which was released online this weekend:
His last words of the unfinished fragmentary jottings at the end of this little book may seem to trail off, but in fact they were written on his computer in bursts of energy and enthusiasm as he sat in the hospital using his food tray for a desk.
When he was admitted to the hospital for the last time, we thought it would be for a brief stay. He thought — we all thought — he’d have the chance to write the longer book that was forming in his mind. His intellectual curiosity was sparked by genomics and the cutting-edge proton radiation treatments he underwent, and he was encouraged by the prospect that his case could contribute to future medical breakthroughs. He told an editor friend waiting for an article, “Sorry for the delay, I’ll be back home soon.” He told me he couldn’t wait to catch up on all the movies he had missed and to see the King Tut exhibition in Houston, our temporary residence.
The end was unexpected.
At home in Washington, I pulled books off the shelves, out of the book towers on the floor, off the stacks of volumes on tables. Inside the back cover her notes written in his hand that he took for reviews and for himself. Piles of his papers and notes lie on services all around the apartment, some of which were taken from his suitcase that I brought back from Houston. And anytime I can peruse our library or his notes and rediscover and recover him.
When I do, I hear him, and he has the last word. Time after time, Christopher has the last word.
The Daily Mail also summarizes some of what we’ll see in his final book:
In his fragmentary jottings, published in the Daily Telegraph, he wrote: ‘I am not fighting or battling cancer, it is fighting me. My two assets were my pen and my voice.’
Hitchens knew he was dying but saw the funny side of all the glowing praise for his literary work. ‘Now so many tributes that it also seems that rumours of my LIFE have also been greatly exaggerated.
‘Lived to see most of what’s going to be written about me: this too is exhilarating, but hits diminishing returns when I realise how soon it, too will be “background.”‘
He wrote: ‘Those who say I am being punished are saying that god can’t think of anything more vengeful than cancer for a heavy smoker.’
He maintained his devout atheism after being diagnosed with cancer, telling one interviewer: ‘No evidence or argument has yet been presented which would change my mind. But I like surprises.’
There were no surprises, though. Hitchens never heard any evidence to the contrary.
Among his final thoughts, left unfinished in his book:
Amazing how heart and lungs and liver have held up: would have been healthier if I’d been more sickly.
If I convert it’s because it’s better that a believer dies than an atheist does.
You would think Hitchens would’ve found a way to get cancer to change its mind and back off… Alas. He died last December. This book will be the last time we get to hear anything original from him. I’ll be reading it as slowly as possible, just to make it last.