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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hitchens, the journey and an angel

A friend of ours is having a desperate struggle with cancer at the moment. I mean, really desperate. A mutual friend, who is an angel, is helping her through, but it is an exhausting and difficult task. We feel for them both. 

    This is at least the third time in the recent past that the angel's been called on to do this for friends, and in at least two of these cases, these friends relied on her almost totally for the sort of support, material and emotional, that terminally ill friends need. Often in fact, they demand it, which I guess is, up to a point, understandable in many ways, given what lies ahead for them. I can only begin to imagine what a toll it's taken on her over that time. AND she calls to see me very regularly as well.

    Christopher Hitchens, whose writings on Islam often used to make me furious when I was teaching a course on modern Islam, has cancer of the larynx. He writes candidly of his journey, which is why I find his views on his approaching death very revealing, and of course I cannot help relating to what he says.
   "Like so many of life’s varieties of experience," he writes, "the novelty of a diagnosis of malignant cancer has a tendency to wear off. The thing begins to pall, even to become banal. One can become quite used to the specter of the eternal Footman, like some lethal old bore lurking in the hallway at the end of the evening, hoping for the chance to have a word. And I don't so much object to his holding my coat in that marked manner, as if mutely reminding me that it's time to be on my way. No, it's the snickering that gets me down." (Italics mine.)
   And so he goes on, writing just as I would be telling it if I had his literary skills. His article's here. He's telling the story for a whole lot of people. I've not always agreed with his political or religious views, but I certainly respect them. And him.

(Incidentally, there's another fascinating article by him. This is it.)

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