I woke up at 4:30 a.m. on December 16th.
When I checked my phone to see what time it was, I saw an alert from the New York Times. (I get alerts on breaking news items.) Christopher Hitchens was dead.
Two days earlier, Christopher Hitchens crossed my mind. I realized I hadn’t noticed a recent article from him on Slate.com. Typically, I would find at least one per week. I knew he had esophageal cancer, and I suddenly panicked, thinking an absence of his writing meant he’d died. So, I quickly clicked over to Slate and looked. His last contribution was at the end of November. Hmm. A longer stretch than usual between Hitchens postings. I hoped it wasn’t indicative that his health had taken a turn for the worse, spiraling down in the final surge toward mortality.
I checked over at Vanity Fair’s site, another place I would frequently (though less so in recent months) read his observations and excoriations. I didn't notice anything there, either.
Though he could make me angry, and though I certainly disagreed with him at times, and though I perceived he could be an abrasive intellectual bully, I loved to read his writing. He was a brilliant, towering intellect who could dissect an issue and splay it with phraseology and a pervasive assault of reasoning.
Perhaps oddly, when I was diagnosed with cancer last year, my mind very quickly turned to Hitchens writing about his own diagnosis and battle.