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‘Dying’ Hitchens Talks Mortality, Religion

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Posted on Aug 10, 2010
Hitchens
theatlantic.com

In this frank discussion with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg and with Martin Amis, an ailing Christopher Hitchens stares down his own mortality and makes it clear that if he appears to embrace religion at any point during his bout with cancer, “the entity making such a remark might be a raving, terrified person whose cancer has spread to the brain.”  —KA

The Atlantic:

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By omygodnotagain, August 11, 2010 at 3:19 pm Link to this comment

I did notice that Hitchens at the end mentioned that he did not discount a “Prime Mover”.It is the logical conclusion to the Theory of The Big Bang.
What he really objects to in religion is the moral certitude.  I can relate. After science has demonstrated ad nauseum that the world is billions of years old, it is frustrating to have to listen to people talking about what amounts to allegory and fiction with certitude, like it really happened. That is true of all 3 monotheistic religions.
By the same token I can appreciate critics like Hedges. It is fine dismissing all that God stuff, but what is replacing it. So far we have had the Soviet Union and Chinese Communism, with 10s of millions dead. We have consumerism that is turning people into objects and killing the planet. Atheists and secular types have nothing to replace the old values, no moral certitude, what would they base it on, what authority. At least Christians can look at Universities and Hospitals and say we created those in the Middle Ages, they can say we fought against slavery and abolished it in Europe and then America and much more, what is a communist going to say, we murdered 30 million people, created gulags, designed the ugliest building known to man, and took away the freedoms of millions, whaat are secular materialists going to say we are destroying the planet, but look at my new (wardrope, car, computer whatever..)
do they promote academic achievement, no they glory in making money, crass, shallow and lacking any principles.
So Hitchens your criticisms are valid, but you never answered the question “Whats Next”

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By balkas, August 11, 2010 at 2:37 pm Link to this comment

Sylvia barksdale,
Right! No one is born as a christian. One BECOMES christian. But, unfotunately, eventually abandons god and totally accepts and ?always obeys pope: a man.

What a tragedy for all nonchristians or noncatholics. tnx

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By Sylvia Barksdale, August 11, 2010 at 2:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Please, Garth, do you actually believe I’m happy that Christopher Hitchens is near death?  Where, or where, does this thinking process emerge from?  You actually have some nerve to be so wretched as to accuse me of this!

It is very sad news to me for I have very much enjoyed Mr, Hitchens’ work.  He says what I have believed for many years.


So, is it your premise that neither religion or the lack of it be discussed?  What then, in your opinion is discussable?  I do not agree and think it should be discussed until it entirely disappears.

Although I do not care to hear from you again, I am curious about the statement you made concerning my name.  Do you know other Barksdales?

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By elisalouisa, August 11, 2010 at 2:04 pm Link to this comment

Concerning link in my post August 11 at 12:23 pm:
Salon magazine article states:

In the interview Hedges spoke to Salon by phone about the New Atheists, as they have been called, include Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and bestselling author and journalist Christopher Hitchens—outspoken secularists who depict religious structures and the belief in God as backward and anti-
democratic. He accuses Hitchens and the others of preaching a fundamentalism as dangerous as the religious fundamentalist belief systems they attack. Strange bedfellows indeed—according to Hedges, the New Atheists and the Christian right pose the greatest threat facing American democratic society
today.

Interviewer:Do you think Hitchens really believes what he writes?
Hedges: I think he’s completely amoral. I think he doesn’t have a moral core. I think he doesn’t believe anything. What’s good for Christopher Hitchens is about as moral as he gets.

On other threads Nemesis you berate women for the very same attribute you praise Hitchens for: not having good health habits. Hitchens admits that indulging in scotch whiskey and cigarettes has much to do with his illness. Yet, you seem to admire it. Again, double standard.
So much for blaming Mother Teresa for the condition women in India are in. See link below, courtesy of Nemesis, especially after 2:17 minutes.

The drama of it all, Hitchens in your imaginary hell Nemesis, even you admit it. So where are his friends the neocons in this Dante scene? Oh, I know, they are not there to greet Hitchens because they are with lucifer encouraging preemptive war.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA7uQPbie2M&NR=1

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By garth, August 11, 2010 at 1:55 pm Link to this comment

Sylvia Barksdale, August 11 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)
I have to chime in again.
Sylvia Barksdale says,
“Christopher Hitchens is a brilliant thinker and writer; frighteningly brilliant to some, I have no doubt.  He is hated and feared for the truths he espouses and this is the reason he is so vehemently criticized.
From the first time I read Hitchens, I was an admirer and have followed every column printed since then, primarily on Truthdig.  Robert Scheer chooses only the best writers for his site and Christopher Hitchens tops them all.

Religions have distorted and confused the mind of man since the day they were conceived of.  Undoubtedly, religion will be our ultimate downfall.  When a civilization cannot function without some sort of abstract superior being to worship and credit for all accomplishments with the belief of punishment in a pit of everlasting fire if we do not follow this belief, it has doomed itself.”

—————————————-


I had a feeling with the name, Sylvia Barksdale, that the poster would claim to have enjoyed Hitchens’s writing.

To me it goes beyond that. They ususally don’t annouce someone’s near death until they are ‘near death’.

Whatever you believe, don’t be so wretched as wish someone’s death. 

I don’t care what Hitchens believed.  He thought and he wrote eloquenlty.  Most American writers don’t think, don’t think clearly and don’t write anywhere near as elegantly.

It’s crazy!  People talking about their belief in God or their non-belief in said God when one among us so valuable as Christopher Hitchens is dying.

Just how narcissistic have we become?

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, August 11, 2010 at 1:50 pm Link to this comment

Re: nemesis2010, August 11 at 3:55 pm

“Not near as much as I am at the vehemence of those who believe in a higher power with absolutely no evidence and with all of the higher powers’ supposed attributes having been pulled right out of their own arses.”

If you Love or Hate another then show your evidence, its an old arguement. 

I don’t know about the higher powers supposed attributes you speak of, I guess its all in the viewers belief system.

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By Sylvia Barksdale, August 11, 2010 at 12:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Christopher Hitchens is a brilliant thinker and writer; frighteningly brilliant to some, I have no doubt.  He is hated and feared for the truths he espouses and this is the reason he is so vehemently criticized.

From the first time I read Hitchens, I was an admirer and have followed every column printed since then, primarily on Truthdig.  Robert Scheer chooses only the best writers for his site and Christopher Hitchens tops them all.

Religions have distorted and confused the mind of man since the day they were conceived of.  Undoubtedly, religion will be our ultimate downfall.  When a civilization cannot function without some sort of abstract superior being to worship and credit for all accomplishments with the belief of punishment in a pit of everlasting fire if we do not follow this belief, it has doomed itself.

Religions, regardless of what leaning, are akin to black magic.  Balkas states that one is not born an atheist.  True.  Neither is one born a christian.  From the day of birth, for most, the brainwashing begins.  By the time one reaches high school or earlier, it is fully ingrained for life for most.

What reason has man to take responsibility for his actions when he reasoning is, “it’s all in the hands of god”, or “I failed, according to god’s will?”  Methinks it’s all a bit insane.

I hope that Mr. Hitchens recovers and is able to continue with his writing.

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By balkas, August 11, 2010 at 12:19 pm Link to this comment

Diman,
I do not think that believing in god is believing in priests.
Concept of god, to me, is too much important to leave to greatest criminal minds to legislate over a simple idea in people’s mind-bodies.

Thus god exists with certaianty only in a person’s nervous system and nowhere else.

The concept does not at this time reside inside my nervous system and devil forbid priestly diktats would. I am horrified at mere thought of obeying man of whatever skin or cloak.

Let’s not, please, compare as real as a rock entirely different entities: a god and a priest.tnx

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By nemesis2010, August 11, 2010 at 11:59 am Link to this comment

By mitchum22, August 11 at 11:55 am

“Hitchens?
Burn in hell.
Ya know, like all the babies, old men, young men, young women, old women, dogs, cats & squirrels who’ve burned to death in all the wars supported by this fat ugly dirtbag in order to save his non-existent career. (Oh and let’s not forget this week the pig’s recent celebration of the Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombings, probably written just as he came back from the doctor with his cancer diagnosis.)”

Well as most rational human beings know, there is no hell. But it is humorous to think of Hitchens entering hell and being met at the entryway by Mother Teresa and all those popes from throughout the ages.

It brings a smile to my face thinking of the smirk Hitchens would have as he looked upon her and her ilk with smug contempt—Scotch whiskey and cigarette in hand of course. That alone would make hell a much more interesting place than that imaginary heaven.
 

By elisalouisa, August 11 at 12:23 pm

”FYI”

”The sermon was based on what he claimed was a well-known fact, that there were no Atheists in foxholes. I asked Jack what he thought of the sermon afterwards, and he said: ‘There’s a Chaplain who never visited the front.’” –Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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By nemesis2010, August 11, 2010 at 11:55 am Link to this comment

By JustLikeHoney, August 10 at 8:03 pm
”Just relax Christopher.  MANY great artists and thinkers convert on their deathbed so you will be in outstanding company if you do convert.  Rimbaud comes to mind. Another one that comes to mind is Thomas Hobbes.  When he mistakenly thought he was about to die he received Holy Communion much to the chagrin of his fellow atheists.  The list goes on, but those two were the first that came to my mind. God bless this man on his journey.”

Is there no level of deception so low that you believers in fantasy will not stoop to it in order to propagate your delusions?

Hitchens has clearly stated in this interview—and a much better one with Anderson Cooper—that the only way there would be a death “conversion” is if he was no longer in control of his faculties due to the chemo, drugs, and spreading of the disease to his brain.

Even if such a conversion were to take place that still would not prove the existence of your imaginary sky daddy. You still would have no more proof of the existence of a divine than that which you believers in make believe have today. The only thing that a Hitchens’ conversion would prove is the depth to which Religion’s propagation of fear has infected all of humanity. Religion is the bane of society.

By gerard, August 10 at 10:08 pm
”There is that land of Yes/No, that “in-between” where love and mercy are born and reborn.  Too often the many various verbalizations of certainty are a kind of “sound and fury”.  The soul is a lonely traveller through unknown territory, only temporarily asked to cope without answers and offered the possibilities that questions raise.”

…and all blue hollow unicorns are made of chocolate, the sincere wishes of children and faerie dust.

Evidence?

By PatrickHenry, August 10 at 10:24 pm
”I am always suprised by the vehemence of those who refuse to believe in a higher power.”

Not near as much as I am at the vehemence of those who believe in a higher power with absolutely no evidence and with all of the higher powers’ supposed attributes having been pulled right out of their own arses.

Report this

By garth, August 11, 2010 at 11:17 am Link to this comment

NABNYC, August 11 at 1:47 pm Link to this comment


Jeffrey Goldberg should not have done this interview, because he is apparently incapable of allowing Hitchins to talk about the possibility of his own death, even cutting him off when he tries to explain his thoughts on that subject.  This is not unique, it is common.  Many terminally ill people complain that nobody will just let them talk, everybody insists that the dying person embrace the concept of “you never know—hopefully you will get better” when they would rather talk about, say out loud, the fact that they don’t think they are going to get better, they think they are going to die, and soon, and they are afraid.  Unfortunate this interviewer cut off that conversation.
========================================
Wonderful.  Thank you.

At least, Hitchens is surrounded by friends like Amis.

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By ibh, August 11, 2010 at 10:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well said Mr. Hitchens, although I have not always agreed with you.  At this time you have gained my complete admiration, respect and praise with your realistic views.

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By BruceW, August 11, 2010 at 10:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What does relaxing into your death have to do with conversion? You can either
rage, rage (uselessly) at the dying of the light and suffer like hell, or accept
peacefully that it’s the end. What may look like oblivion is a mystery.

No need to believe anything when you face death; but you’ll have a better time
of it if you are willing to let go of certainty.

Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going—
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.
- Kozan Ichikyo, died February 12, 1360, at 77

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By NABNYC, August 11, 2010 at 9:47 am Link to this comment

Jeffrey Goldberg should not have done this interview, because he is apparently incapable of allowing Hitchins to talk about the possibility of his own death, even cutting him off when he tries to explain his thoughts on that subject.  This is not unique, it is common.  Many terminally ill people complain that nobody will just let them talk, everybody insists that the dying person embrace the concept of “you never know—hopefully you will get better” when they would rather talk about, say out loud, the fact that they don’t think they are going to get better, they think they are going to die, and soon, and they are afraid.  Unfortunate this interviewer cut off that conversation.

As far as the religion/God topic, how silly to waste time on that subject.  It’s almost like people are saying “Well, now let’s rake him over the coals for his athiest or anti-religious views,” now that he’s down, now that he’s facing death.  There is something very sick and cruel about this topic being raised again and again with or about this dying man.  It reflects the underlying coercion and cruelty of dominant religions in this country whose members rejoice at the thought of the nonbelievers burning to death when the end comes.  Very sick world view.  I do not see any merit in promoting it through interviews such as this.

Finally, since Hitchins is willing to speak of his sudden collapse, being rushed to the hospital, the tests, the doctors, the treatments, the prospects, the bad statistics and prognosis, that should have been the subject of the interview.  He is willing to talk about this, which is unusual.  Let him talk.  Many people could benefit from listening to somebody speak about their own experience with cancer and maybe with death. 

This was a wasted opportunity.

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By Night-Gaunt, August 11, 2010 at 9:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Not everyone who is an Atheist (or anything else not fundamentalist Christian) converts on their death bed. I nearly died and I was in no need of desperate conversion. There are also reported cases that are later found to be false too. Like Darwin for instance. Plenty of Christian liars who promelgate such lies in order to muddy their adversaries, and support their own causes.

I would be happy to here him say renounces all the wars he has supported and hopes he can live a life, that isn’t so full of imperial hubris and mass murder.

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By diman, August 11, 2010 at 8:56 am Link to this comment

To BALKAS

One can BE an atheist, I was raised in the Soviet Union, in a family entirely comprised of the members of the Communistic Party, there is no need to explain the attitude of the Soviets towards religion, and my personal outlook on the so-called god hasn’t change since. There is no god, never was, never will be.

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By garth, August 11, 2010 at 8:56 am Link to this comment

I remember a show put on by C-SPAN that had several American journalists and writers and Christopher Hitchens.  The program was about children’s poetry of all things. 

This was at the time of his support for Bush and his invasion of Iraq and, might I add, the War for the Water for Suadis.

To me his selections of poems for children were far superior than any of the poems selectd by the other guest. I gritted my teeth.

I now realize, to bloat the word even further, people are multi-faceted.

I thank him also for indirectly pointing me to Martin Amis.  I would’ve never bought Amis’s book, “War Against the Cliche” if I didn’t see a picture recently of Amis with Hitchens on the Cape in the 80s in the Boston Sunday Globe.

Overall, I find Hitchens to be a lovable ‘chap’.  Excuse the pretense.

American journalists, writers and politicians would do well to abandon their proclivity toward ‘Globish’ language and expand their vocabularies.

‘Nuance’ does not do it.  These writers with their precision get to the nub of the matter and leave very little room for misinterpretation.  The ideas are better found through language that these writers use.

Buy “War and Cliche.”  It’s like a book you carry-around-on-Summer-vacation.  It’s of literary criticism with a Word Wealth.

Amis reassures you that your time spent reading hole-up somewhere or in solitude on a beach is not wasted.

He shows as does Hitchens that life expands.

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By Mike3, August 11, 2010 at 8:52 am Link to this comment

As Voltaire was on his death bed, a priest came in and said: “sir now is the time to renounce the Devil”.

To which Voltaire replied: “my good sir, this is no time to be making enemies.”

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By Night-Gaunt, August 11, 2010 at 8:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I can understand his situation. I spent over a year caring for my ailing mother who survived an intense chemotherapy treatment to be given a clean bill of health, yet 3 wks later had cancer of the liver that killed her in less than 6 months and she was a believer to the end. Very sad, I am the only one in my immediate family that is an Atheist. I don’t advertise it.

Such direct threats to ones life can be altering in that in a F or F situation the only place you have to run to is in your mind. Old ingrained habits can resurface after years of being locked away.

I well understand. My sympathies to him and his family.

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mitchum22's avatar

By mitchum22, August 11, 2010 at 7:55 am Link to this comment

Hitchens?

Burn in hell.

Ya know, like all the babies, old men, young men, young women, old women, dogs, cats & squirrels who’ve burned to death in all the wars supported by this fat ugly dirtbag in order to save his non-existent career. (Oh and let’s not forget this week the pig’s recent celebration of the Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombings, probably written just as he came back from the doctor with his cancer diagnosis.)

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By balkas, August 11, 2010 at 7:19 am Link to this comment

First, one cannot BE an atheist, one can only BECOME an atheist. No baby can be [a]theist, but each becomes [a]theist]

And, then, some people not only BECOME theistic, but also servants to gangsters or a cosa nostra gang.

A cosa nostra gang that is composed mostly of men and structured just like the army—another cosa nostra group of gangsters.

So, confusing a god with bunch of lunatic criminals appears bad to me.

I do not know what hitchen stands for, but if he thought like i do, i do not think he’d ever change his mind about the greatest bane that had ever befallen us. If i had his email i would send him this post! tnx

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By garth, August 11, 2010 at 6:29 am Link to this comment

By Michael Koch, August 10 at 7:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m a 65 yea old man, and I can honestly say, I Love Christopher Hitchens. For his clarity of thought, for his bravery, not only now in the face of his own mortality, but throughout his entire life.  He is a true Light in the Darkness,  and I will be more affected by his death, if this turns out to be his time, than I was even at the deaths of my own parents.

——————————————————

Except for his politics, I loved to read and listen to the man.

I pray that this is not his time.

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By elisalouisa, August 11, 2010 at 5:02 am Link to this comment

So true truedigger3. What each of us believes does not alter who Hitchens is and the fact that he will be making outrageous statements until he is gasping his last dying breath.

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By truedigger3, August 11, 2010 at 12:42 am Link to this comment

Since Christopher Hichens supported and is supporting the Iraq invasion and termed it an example of the “good” the US can do in the world and I knew that he was co-opted and seduced by power. His opinion was not out of ignorance but out of pure calculation to “join in”.
Definitely a man of his intellect and knowledge, he knew better not to voice such nonsense and for that he was and now is pure uncut phony.
Dying or not dying will not change that fact.
I am an atheist too.

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By Buckwirth, August 10, 2010 at 10:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@justlikehoney:
I share a similar fate wit Mr Hitchens, and I can assure you there will be no deathbed
offerings from a buggerer of little boys, nor from any of your local neighborhood
jihadists ( xtian, muslim, Buddhist or Hindu)  As he has said, pray for him if it makes
you feel better, he (nor I) do not expect it will change a thing in our life or yours.

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By Jeff, August 10, 2010 at 7:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Quoting:

By JustLikeHoney, August 10 at 8:03 pm Link to this
comment

“Just relax Christopher.”

That’s gotta be one of the creepiest thing’s I’ve read
in a while. Reellaaxxxx Christopher, everyone converts
on their deathbed, just go with it.

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By Malcontent, August 10, 2010 at 6:45 pm Link to this comment

I really fail to understand the interviewers line of questioning. Agree with the man or not, he has spent his life studying the topic, has come to conclusions and written several books on the subject.
Why would anybody, without new knowledge to add to the debate, expect his world view to change, just because he is dying?
I believe this is a glimpse of the patent irrationality that goes along with belief in that, for which there is no evidence.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, August 10, 2010 at 6:24 pm Link to this comment

I am always suprised by the vehemence of those who refuse to believe in a higher power.

Report this

By gerard, August 10, 2010 at 6:08 pm Link to this comment

There is that land of Yes/No, that “in-between” where love and mercy are born and reborn.  Too often the many various verbalizations of certainty are a kind of “sound and fury”.  The soul is a lonely traveller through unknown territory, only temporarily asked to cope without answers and offered the possibilities that questions raise.

Report this
Daye's avatar

By Daye, August 10, 2010 at 5:09 pm Link to this comment

@ JustLikeHoney: Mr. Goldberg’s interview was
equally self-adoring - just as Mr. Hitchens’
comments reveal he expected, pities & is still
spending what diminishing life remains to him
to expose.

I listened to the video in fear that some
pompous poisonality from “The Atlantic” would
all too predictably use the extraordinarily able
writer’s present circumstance to swagger his
own repulsive ego, & was not pleased to find
my fears justified. 

How little of pearls pigs are able to adore.

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By JustLikeHoney, August 10, 2010 at 4:03 pm Link to this comment

Just relax Christopher.  MANY great artists and thinkers convert on their deathbed so you will be in outstanding company if you do convert.  Rimbaud comes to mind. Another one that comes to mind is Thomas Hobbes.  When he mistakenly thought he was about to die he received Holy Communion much to the chagrin of his fellow atheists.  The list goes on, but those two were the first that came to my mind.

God bless this man on his journey.

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By Michael Koch, August 10, 2010 at 3:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m a 65 yea old man, and I can honestly say, I Love Christopher Hitchens. For his clarity of thought, for his bravery, not only now in the face of his own mortality, but throughout his entire life.  He is a true Light in the Darkness,  and I will be more affected by his death, if this turns out to be his time, than I was even at the deaths of my own parents.

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