Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Stephen Hawking and Wonder

Last night I was watching ABC Nightly News with Diane Sawyer.  She had an interview with the famous scientist and philosopher Stephen Hawking.  Because of Hawking’s health issues, he uses a computer device to type out words at the rate of 1-2 words per minutes, they gave him the questions ahead of time so he could respond during the interview.  The interview was engaging and once again Hawking’s story is amazing.

At the age of 21 Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  He wasn’t expected to live more than a year or so, but he has outlived his prognosis by 43 years…that’s amazing.  He went on to become a professor at Cambridge and one of the world’s most famous voices about physics. 

One of the things that was impressive was that his daughter seems to be a partner in his life.  He married twice, has children and grandchildren, and obviously his determination, perseverance, and wonder has mesmerized his family just as he has mesmerized the world.

Watching the interview I starting asking myself, “what makes and made Hawking different from others with the same diagnosis?”  When I asked myself this question what came to mind was the idea of wonder.  He has lived his life in a place of wonder.   He’s always asking the next question, coming up with a new theory, and always in hot pursuit of an answer to the big questions.  Does wonder prolong life?  Does engagement in something, anything so intensely motivate the immune system to go full throttle at all times aiding in health and healing?

I know that many wouldn’t want to live their life trapped in their body, only able to communicate mechanically, and need constant caring for one’s personal needs.  Hawking is obviously surrounded by a caring family and lots of love.  It doesn’t hurt that he has admirers around the world and it has been that way for forty years.

I was most taken with his response to Diane Sawyer’s question about advice to his kids and grandchildren.  His response was: 

“One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it,” he said. “Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away.”

Amazing words from an amazing man.  I have two questions for you.  “What do you wonder about so intently that it could fortify your physical, emotional, and spiritual life?”  Last but not least, “What advice (like Hawking did in the interview) would you give family or friends that will stick with them long after you’re gone?”