I always felt a kinship with Hitchens because we shared infection with the big "C"; his, esophageal; mine, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL. Cancers are tricky little bastards: they can take someone out in a month or two, or let him live with the disease as best he may for years and years. I am not bragging, but I am over a decade into my inconveniences and humiliations. If I ask, why did Hitchens go so fast but I am yet alive, I waste both his time and yours. I am not comparing myself to him in any way at all; we had at most freethinking spirits in common, but I am the first to admit that his audacity in that department made me wonder if some all-powerful caliph, somewhere, found a way to infect him with his cancer. If America is "the Great Satan," Hitchens to a Wahhabist would have appeared Public Enemy Number One. I don't have the cajones for that role.
But I can do what I should to convince my believer friends that their greatest fear is their impetus to belief; that is, if I can make the Christian see that nothing becomes of us when we die, nothing good nor bad, nothing but Nothing Itself. I know a lot of atheists like to say that they had no consciousness prior to birth, and they will have none after death, so why fear it? Science tell us this; religion speaks of heaven and hell. I like the old jingle about "worms crawling in, worms crawling out/Worms play pinocle on my snout." Or Woody Allen's famous, "Oh, I'm not afraid of death. I just don't want to be there when it happens." I had a moment to think of things like that when, during the second chemo a year ago, I had a bad reaction to Rituxan, a virulent substance that caused my blood to boil. I got overheated and started to hyperventilate. The oncologist was called in and order an immediate shot of antihistamine. I could have died I suppose. But it was Nothing.
Hitchens, though, in addition to talking the talk, walked the walk. He took to heart the saying of Friedrich Nietzsche: "The worth of a spirit is its capacity to endure the truth."