This week the world lost one of its great minds with the death of Steven Hawking. I am reminded of the movie that was made about his life in 2014.
"The Theory of Everything” tells the story of theoretical physicist Steven Hawking and his wife, Jane. At the age of 21, he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease and given two years to live. He is now 72 years old. The movie tells the story of two dedicated people working to extend his life far beyond what was considered possible. It is a story that presents us with the question, “What is love?”
Their relationship began shortly before he was diagnosed. What started as a relationship filled with excitement and wonder quickly turned into a 25-year struggle for productivity and survival. Jane never gave up hope for Steven, even at a time when a doctor suggested taking him off a ventilator. “Steven must live,” was her statement, and he did. She devoted years to keeping him alive and working, at the expense of her own career and ambitions; even when she was overwhelmed, depressed and angry.
As the disease progresses, you watch as Steven becomes physically handicapped in almost every way. He went from walking with a cane, to using a wheelchair. He could not use his hands to write; eventually, he could not even speak. When he would become discouraged, Jane by his side, there to help him fight in order to continue his life’s work.
Steven and Jane have an amazing story to tell. Once you look past the extraordinary circumstances, however, you can also clearly see the stages of love that we all experience in our own lives.
It began with romance, passion and excitement. They were happy to be with one another, no matter what the cost. We see this as Steven takes Jane to the May Ball, charms her with unique stories, and agrees to dance even though he doesn't know how. The evening ends with a fireworks display that is nothing short of magic. She is entranced; he is enthralled.
They create a life together. His disease progresses, they have children, Jane works toward her Ph.D. Romance has ended and disillusionment sets in. Life is no longer what JAne dreamed, grief sets in along with all it brings: depression, anger, denial, and bargaining. This is the point where many relations fail, without the romance the grief overwhelms and the relationship is ended.
Jane decides to stay despite the hardship, and fights for Steven, his life and their relationship. She enters the stage of acceptance. Her romantic dream is dead. Together she and Steven, with the support of a team of others, accomplish truly great things. They raise three children together, and Jane finishes her Ph.D. while Steven lives to continue his work, which receives international acclaim.
In the course of their lives together, both Steven and Jane have choices to make. Jane chooses to stay; however, after 25 years together, Steven chooses otherwise. In the end, he leaves Jane.
An impactful movie sticks with us as we leave the theater and makes us think about something we experienced as we watched. Their story raises the question, “Was love not enough to keep them together, or did love make those 25 years possible?” Could you even argue that love saved his life?
If you enjoy questions like this, look forward to February. That's when I'll reflect on love as it is presented in the media versus what we experience in real life.