The death of Stephen Hawking has left a gaping black hole in the scientific community and his passing was a great shock.
Despite his ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), Hawking was one of the world's greatest physicists, and he taught us that we should not let our disabilities interfere with life. He kept exploring the universe, making numerous discoveries in fields of cosmology, quantum physics, and relativity. In 2011, Hawking stated: "My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn't prevent you doing well, and don't regret the things it interferes with. Don't be disabled in spirit, as well as physically." Unfortunately, no current cure exists for ALS but research is well underway.
Hawking was diagnosed with ALS at the mere age of 21. The life expectancy for ALS on average is two to five years after diagnosis, but more than half of those diagnosed live more than three years. In an interview for The Guardian, Hawking stated: "I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first." Although he was diagnosed at a very young age where most of us are still discovering ourselves and was not expected to live past his 25th birthday, Hawking did not let the prospect of death slow him down. I believe that aside from his scientific contributions, his positive demeanor and optimism should never be forgotten.
What I took away from Hawking's words as a high-school student were three simple words: Never. Stop. Looking.
Hawking's words were just as memorable as his contributions to the scientific community, if not more. He once said, "It would not be much of a universe if it wasn't home to the people you love." That sums it up pretty accurately. Although he is no longer with us, the sky has, in turn, gained another star. We had the privilege to share the sky with one of the greatest minds of our era. Hawking even reminded us of that. Whenever times are glum, look at the stars and not your feet.