Farewell To An Idol

RIP Stephen Hawking.

I couldn’t believe when I heard that at the age of 76, Stephen Hawking had passed away.

I have a few idols. Many of them have already passed away. But Stephen Hawking was an important idol for me when I was growing up.

Before I jumped on the biology bandwagon and joined medicine, I was a physics fanatic. Everything to do with nuclear, theory, and astro physics was what kindled my curiosity and thirst for knowledge. The business of unraveling the mysteries of the universe seemed confined to the field of physics only. And that was thrilling.

Stephen Hawking was among the physicists I idolised. Way back when I didn’t understand a lot of what he was saying.

But perhaps the most amazing thing about Stephen Hawking that I had learnt was nothing to do with physics.

The reason I idolise him was because of his determination.

For those who don’t know, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with a motor neuron disease much like ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) when he was 21. At the time, he was given an estimated prognosis of 14 months. Which he outlived of course.

But back in the day, when this condition was diagnosed, patients were given a choice. They were told that once the disease reached their lungs and the muscles in their chest whereby they can no longer breathe on their own, they could opt out of being put on a ventilator. As in, they could die if they wished.

This may be considered a blessing for some people. If you’re paralysed and in a wheelchair, that’s one thing. But if you’re then put on a machine that breathes for you, that’s something else entirely.

So. Stephen Hawking had this choice. But he chose to live.

And that is so inspirational.

How much faith would you have to have in the world, in yourself and in your future, to choose life over this extremely disabling illness? How many people would?

I’m not sure I would.

But that takes so much strength. And despite that he went on to be so successful. Not one thing about his condition held him back from doing everything he wanted to do in the world while he lived.

He was given months and outlived it in years. That’s perseverance personified.

I aspire to have that kind of faith and passion for life, and the world, and what I do.

I am so grateful to have had such an amazing idol. And I know he will be missed.

And while he has some amazing quotes, this is something I love:

Triumph quote

Words to live by.

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