Ah yes. The best man I've ever known, was privileged to know, was my grandfather--A Christian. He died of a painful cancer and refused painkillers, because he wanted to meet Jesus with a clear mind. He never gave in to the pain, was unfailingly kind and polite to the people who helped him, and died peacefully. I was very young when he died, but recall the docs and nurses telling my mom and grandmother how deeply moved they were by him. He gave pieces of candy to the nurses and aides to show his appreciation for the things they did for him. This, while cancer ate away at him. I could tell many stories of him, but there would be no point. Suffice to say he was a man who thought of others before he thought of himself. I have read hundreds of suttas, sat through uncountable dhamma talks, and yet the two most important lessons I've ever learned I got from him before I was five years old. These two lessons are the bedrock of my personal philosophy to this day. I've pretty much given up on the 4 Noble Truths. Too abstract. My Grampa was a practical man, as am I.
I think of him whenever I hear bitter atheists rail against the stupidity of 'religion.' Usually, in the midst of an alcoholic fog to deaden the agony of their existence. It isn't 'religion' that's the problem. It's intolerance; and politics, and money and sex. In other words: people. People screw up everything they touch.
I'm sorry Mr Hitchens died such an awful death. I wouldn't wish cancer on anyone. I hope he found some measure of solace, as my grandfather did, before he went into the final darkness.
Author of Redneck Buddhism: or Will You Reincarnate as Your Own Cousin?