This is not a tribute to Christopher Hitchens. Undoubtedtly, there shall be many. I certainly was an admirer of Hitchens the writer, the journalist, the wit, the commentator, the patient fighting esophageal cancer, and the man who lived life on his own terms. His death most struck a chord in me when I think about Christopher Hitchens the father of three adult children.
My own father Danny was a brilliant man, a man of integrity who stood his ground, a very funny man, a loyal, generous friend, and a very brave man. He fought lung cancer with courage and on his own terms, and he died on February 1, 1991 at age 59. But what he most wanted to be remembered for was that he was a family man. He too was the father of three adult children. Like Hitchens, Danny Lynch was known for his smoking and for his drinking.
I had just turned 28 shortly before our last Christmas together. Although life with an alcoholic parent is a constant high wire act with no net, my father had stopped drinking and smoking in March 1990, several months before his cancer diagnosis. The last year of his life was bittersweet because he once again became the very sweet man and father I had remembered before the drinking consumed his life. The anger which goes hand in hand with alcoholism was rarely on display. How deeply beautiful it was for our family and for him. How terribly sad that our family life was wracked with the constant horror, sorrow and anxiety which alcoholism brings to those who love an alcoholic. Tomorrow I shall turn 49, and I wish my father were alive as a healthy 80-year-old man.
So, to those of you who believe imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I offer this cautionary advice. A life spent drinking, accompanied as it often is with smoking, will not allow a person to live to a truly happy life. I guarantee that such a life will bring misery to the person and to the people who love him or her. My admiration for my father, and for Christopher Hitchens, and for what they achieved in their lives, is not diminished. I do not "blame" either man for getting cancer; that is an abhorrent thought, and a cruel act. Yet, I cannot but wonder how much more time and happiness each man would have had, how much more each would have accomplished, if each had not spent his life with a drink and a cigarette constantly in hand.
Funeral Blues by W.H. Auden