It’s odd, thinking about death while being an atheist. To understand that afterward, you are simply not.
Dawkins and Hitchens both know that what is coming is permanent. There is no happy ending, with no chance of reunion or redemption in some other plane. Death will be a final parting, permanent and absolute.
In that embrace, it’s not just that Hitchens means a great deal to Dawkins. It’s knowing that soon, they’ll be separated by eternity. And yet, in infinite time and space, two motes of consciousness, against unfathomable odds, simply had the opportunity to enjoy a brief lucidity of life and touch each other in some small way before returning forever to the endless naught.
Honestly, there is absolutely nothing more important than the realization that this life, the single life we have, is all and everything that we will ever have; when it’s over, it’s over. In a way, it gives life more sanctity and meaning than any religion could dream.