What is lost when we die and what remains? Do we leave an impression behind? Will that impression simply wash away? All the rivers run into the sea and still the sea is not filled.
The wisest words I have read on death to were written by Marcus Aurelius.
If any god told you that you shall die tomorrow, or certainly on the day after to-morrow, you would not care much whether it was on the third day or on the next, unless you had a very degraded spirit for how small is the difference? So think it no great thing to die after as many years as you can count rather than tomorrow.
Think continually how many physicians are dead after often fretting over the sick; and how many astrologers after predicting with great pretensions the deaths of others; and how many philosophers after endless discourses on death or immortality; how many heroes after killing thousands; and how many tyrants who have used their power over men’s lives with terrible insolence as if they were immortal; and how many cities are entirely dead, so to speak, Helice and Pompeii and Herculaneum, and innumerable others. Add to the total all whom you have known, one after another. One man after burying another has been laid out dead, and another buries him: and all this in a short time. To conclude, always observe how ephemeral and worthless human things are, and what was yesterday a little mucus to-morrow will be a mummy or ashes. Pass then through this little space of time in the way of nature, and end your journey in contentment, just as an olive falls off when it is ripe, blessing nature who produced it, and thanking the tree on which it grew.
Be like the cliff against which the waves continually break, but which stands firm and tames the fury of the water around it.
In reading Christopher Hitchens’ last Vanity Fair article, before his death yesterday, you can read the thoughts of a man who lived as such a cliff—standing firm against turbulent waters. Battered by cancer and the radiation to combat it, he pressed on to a bitter end but left behind sweet memories to those, such as I, that regard him as the intellectual hero he was.
Christopher Hitchens will be sorely missed and fondly remembered.