This image, which I think originates in the Guardian newspaper, is spreading far and wide on social media. It is beautiful, and poignant and at the same time makes me go 'hmmm!'
Stephen Hawking was definitely a man of huge intellect and scientific ability whose life has richly benefited the study of cosmology. He was a man whose words often showed great wisdom and compassion. He was a man who lived a reasonably long life (and more than 50 years longer than predicted when he was diagnosed with MND).
There are many ways to read the image. At its simplest, it is a man now free from the constraints of a failing body and able to walk free. And that is beautiful. It also, consiously or otherwise, expresses a belief in life beyond death that is in some way 'better' or more 'whole' than that left behind. Stephen Hawking famously said something along the lines of, 'heaven is a fairy story for those who are afraid of the dark', yet here is an image that shows him in heaven, or walking towards it.
Many years ago (like 30 or more!) I read that the atheist communist Chairman Mao speaking on the death of his wife said something along the lines that 'the angels of heaven all came to meet her'. I feel there is something similar in this image.
I believe in a God of grace and mercy, whose love is for all creation, and who believes in us whether or not we beliive in God.
I believe in the Christ of God, Jesus of Nazareth, whose death destroyed the power of sin and death for all, for all eternity.
I believe in the Sophia Spirit wisdom of God, uncontainable and uncontrollable, reaching deeply into all creation to alert it to its origin and end.
I believe in the grace of the triune God, reaching beyond any human construct to touch and heal, redeem and liberate all.
And it is to that God that I gladly commend Stephen Hawkin (if to do such is in my gift) trusting that God's promises are true and trustworthy.
Rest in peace, Professor Stephen Hawking, you lived well and enriched the lives of those who follow. May you be pleasantly surprised by what you discover beyond the black hole.