Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair:
Like the experience of warfare, the endurance of grave or terminal illness involves long periods of tedium and anxiety, punctuated by briefer interludes of stark terror and pain. This endurance need not necessarily be one's own: indeed, the experience of watching over a sibling or mate in extremis can be even more acute. But nothing, according to the experts, compares to the clutching, choking nightmare that engulfs the one who is slowly bereft of a child.
It is horrible to see oneself die without children. Napoléon Bonaparte said that.
What greater grief can there be for mortals than to see their children dead. Euripides said that.
When we talk about mortality we are talking about our children.
I said that.
Joan Didion, here slightly syncopating in the Bob Dylan manner, has striven with intense dignity and courage in Blue Nights to deepen and extend the effect of The Year of Magical Thinking, her 2005 narrative of the near-simultaneous sudden death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and the onset of the fatal illness of their daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne Michael. In the course of setting it down, she came to realize that she could no longer compose in the old style: the one that she had “supposed to be like writing music.”