This past Tuesday, 76-year-old renown scientist Stephen Hawking died. After the news alert went out on Twitter, I scrolled through the tag and read the plethora of inspiring and humorous quotes from Hawking. I remembered only one the next morning: “It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.”
I’m inspired by the idea that the most influential theoretical physicist still recognized the importance of the ones he loved. This quote suggests that he saw the most significant thing in this vast universe was something as simple as family.
I also spent a while staring at his age. He was 76. That makes me think of my grandparents.
I won’t tell you how old my nana is because I might never get another one of her cookies if I did, but she does make sure she gets her senior discount every place she can. She’s continually on the prayer list at church, and it seems like there is always something wrong in regard to her health. Despite that, she still managed to send me back from spring break with enough food to last all week and then some. I never seem to spend enough time with her or the rest of my family. I kick myself every time I forget to end the conversation with an “I love you,” because I know that bad things can happen, even when you don’t expect them.
I pray all the time that my grandparents are still around to see me finally get married or see my little brother graduate college. Until recently, I hadn’t really questioned whether or not my parents would be around to see that, but I have prayed for a least five friends who have lost a parent in the last six weeks alone. In a world as scary and violent as this one seems to be, I’ve even started to pray for the safety of my younger siblings and nieces as they get on that big, yellow school bus. I used to hope that they would have a great day or would make a few friends, but now I pray that bus brings them back home that afternoon.
Gandhi said that whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it’s very important that you do it. I’ve had this quote scribbled on nearly all of my journals and written on the back of my planners for years. It reminds me to take every opportunity to be helpful and encouraging to the people around me. As much as I hate to admit it, I don’t think anyone will remember my name in 100 years. But I know that there are people around me right now that know me — really know me. If I make an impact on them, that’s enough for me. And, at the end of the day, how is being remembered by one person any less great than being remembered by many?
This quote also makes me think about how many people in history aren’t remembered accurately, or even at all, despite all the good they did. Think of all the celebrities and historical figures that aren’t actually who we remember them to be. Marilyn Monroe, for example, wasn’t as happy as people thought she was, and Kurt Cobain never really wanted to be the face of a revolution. Johnny Depp didn’t want to be an actor. In fact, he moved to LA to make music with his band and only got involved in film as a casual way to pay rent. Napoleon wasn’t really as short as he was portrayed, and some historians say that Cleopatra wasn’t magnificently beautiful, but looked as average as could be.
My point is that we don’t actually know these people, not really. So, isn’t it better to be truly known by someone, important to them, than to be famous and only shallowly known by the world?
I’m so thankful for every phone call and every cookie I get from my nana. I’m also thankful for every random card in the mail from my aunt, every text from my dad and every hug from a friend. These things remind me that there are people around me that love me and value their relationships with me. That’s way better than seeing my name in lights or printed in a history book.
Hawking passed the day before the birthday of another brilliant man, Albert Einstein. To quote him, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”