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The message Stephen Hawking gave me to pass on.

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

A lot of memories that come from what I think of as my past life (or life before brain injury) I wish had stayed away, but there are some which as they fly by I'll think “No, no wait please, I want to see you."

And this, is one of those.

Oh my gosh!

Around what I've worked out would have been 2005, I had a partner who was from Cambridge and we were invited to a wedding of a friend of her family.

I see us sitting in a beautiful old chapel, waiting for the ceremony to begin, and I heard some electronic noises coming from the right. I turned to see a gentleman coming into the chapel in a motorised wheelchair and I recognised him and thought, "Oh my gosh, it's Stepen Hawking".


We later found out that the groom was a part of Professor Hawking's care team, so he was invited to the wedding as his guest.


The next memory I see is when we were at the reception in a big hall. My partner was sitting at a table with her family, but I'd been placed on the opposite side of the room at a table next to the one where Professor Hawking and his care team sat. It was strange because apart from I think one lady, the people on our table all knew one another and it seemed like they were all part of a group.

At some point, maybe after they'd had a few drinks, the group on our table started to get a bit obnoxious and, I think just to have a break, I went to sit with my partner and her family on the other side of the room.


They said they thought it was strange that I'd been placed away from them and they were all sitting together.


Then after a while, I went back to the table on the other side of the room and sat down.

As I sat, a lady from Professor Hawking's care team came over and she said something like, "Would anyone like to come and say anything to him?"


It turned out that while I'd been away, the group at our table had started to make fun of him and the lady had come to challenge them as though to say, "Listen, if you've got something to say, come and say it to his face."

However I didn't know that at the time so all I heard was, “Would anyone like to come and talk to Stephen Hawking?” and I stood up and said excitedly, “I would, I would.”


The look on her face said, "Oh I wasn't expecting that," but before we knew it I'd pulled a chair up next to him, sat down and said something like, "Hi Professor Hawking one of your care team said it's okay to come and say hello, my name's David - how's it going?"

Thumbprint

He was really welcoming and when we talked it wasn't about black holes or the universe or anything like that, and he showed me around his communication system.

There was a small computer screen attached to his wheelchair and he typed one letter at a time, using a tiny sensor which was attached to his cheekbone. I was fascinated and asked him lots of questions about the system and he showed me how it all worked.

At the time I was working as a p.a. for my friend Leo who has cerebral palsy and himself uses a wheelchair. At some point I told Professor Hawking about Leo, who was around twelve at the time, and the things we did together including making music and going on our trips.

After a while I thanked him and got ready to go but he asked me to hold on because he had something that he wanted to give to Leo.

He typed a note out on his computer and used a printer to print it out on a piece of paper, then one of his care team helped him to sign it. He did that by pressing his thumb on to an inkpad and then on to the piece of paper so that underneath his name, was his thumbprint.

It all came together

The next thing I remember it was Monday morning, back at work, and I told Leo and his mum and dad about the weekend. I gave Leo the note that Professor Hawking had asked me to pass on, then we got him ready and set off for school.


Every evening, Leo would go into his standing frame and watch one of his favourite programmes.

At the time it was The Simpsons (of which he had every single DVD box set) and one evening he was watching an episode, when a character appeared called Stephen Hawking who was in a wheelchair.


That was when it all came together.


The note hadn't been written by someone in Cambridge he'd never met, it had been written by one of the characters from The Simpsons: someone from his world.

This is the message that Stephen Hawking gave me to pass on to my friend Leo.

Dear Leo

Don’t let being disabled ever hold you back, just look at me.

Stephen Hawking













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