What to say about the passing of an atheist role model... Rest in Peace sounds wrong, even if understood that it's not meant literally, and it's definitely wrong to say for Hitch. I think maybe it's best to just give thanks to a man who helped a movement, and helped me as a person through his works. His firebrand style of being unabashedly disbelieving helped paved the way for it to be okay to be an atheist, to be okay to think that some ideas are silly. We're not there yet, but some of the freedoms we enjoy and some of the successes we have stand on the foundations of his work. Many people are said to have been lost too early - talents, generally actors and musicians; Hitch wasn't exactly a young man, but I'll put him on my list next to Bill Hicks.
This also hits me hard because he knew it was coming, and handled it with so much grace, outwardly at least. He kept working for the cause for which he felt such passion even through the worst, a human ideal. He's also inspiring because he lived to the fullest, to his best capacity; known for drinking and smoking as hard as anyone, when his doctors told him he had to quit or die, he quit. Just like that, he went from being the man with whiskey in one hand and a cigarette in the other to putting away his trademark without much mention. I've seen plenty of friends and family struggle with this, often using the god-injected AA to assist, but Hitch did it without giving up to a higher power he didn't believe existed. It was his decision, and therefore it was his power by which he quit his vices. That's how it was elegant, and that's why he got silent nods of support.
When you lose someone close to you, either as a friend or through their works, this also brings about the mortality question. I'm actually surprised at how comfortable I am with my own mortality these days, but I'm still terrified of losing loved ones. Specifically I'm reminded of a dear friend, another nonbeliever. He asked that should he die before me, that I deliver for him what Pat Tillman's brother did at his funeral - amidsts all the "he'll be with god"s and the "he's in a better place"s, I am to stand up and announce that my friend is not with god, he's dead. He's not in a better place, he is nowhere. I think my friend expects me to leave it at that and let the shock be there as its own. I don't think I can do that. I find too much beauty in this, the only world we have, to leave it at that.
Just because there's no Sky Cake after we die doesn't mean there is no reward - our reward for our good deeds here is the mark we leave on others, and the love we find and freely give in this world. Hitchens did this for me and millions of others, and I can only hope to leave such an impression myself. Thanks for your time, Hitch.