Peter Hitchens on the death of his brother Christopher
As Peter explains, he didn't have to write anything and people would have understood. This is true. But then again, the younger Hitchens - a talented writer in his own right - imparted some insight into Christopher's life that we couldn't get from anywhere else.
Last week I saw my brother for the last time in a fairly grim hospital room in Houston, Texas. He was in great pain, and suffering in several other ways I will not describe. But he was wholly conscious and in command of his wits, and able to speak clearly.
We both knew it was the last time we would see each other, though being Englishmen of a certain generation, neither of us would have dreamed of actually saying so. We parted on good terms, though our conversation had been (as had our e-mail correspondence for some months) cautious and confined to subjects that would not easily lead to conflict. In this I think we were a little like chess-players, working out many possible moves in advance, neither of us wanting any more quarrels of any kind.
At one stage - and I am so sad this never happened - he wrote to me saying he hoped for a 'soft landing' (code, I think for abandoning any further attempts to combat his disease) and to go home to his beautiful apartment in Washington DC.
There, he suggested, we could go through his bookshelves, as there were some books and other possessions he wanted me to have. I couldn't have cared less about these things, but I had greatly hoped to have that conversation, which would have been a particularly good way of saying farewell.
But alas, it never happened. He never went home and now never will. Never, there it is, that inflexible word that trails close behind that other non-negotiable syllable, death. Even so, we did what we could in Houston, as the doctors, the nurses, the cleaners, and who knows who else, bustled in and out.
The rift between the two was political and religious. Devout Christian Peter, one of the last prominent Tories, as the conservatives in Great Britain used to be called but who are now almost indistinguishable from the New Labor party. And the flaming atheist Hitchens, who for much of his life was a Trotskyist. They were not close. But they admired each other and occassionally defended each other from others.
Read the whole thing.