I met Maddy four years ago in LA when visiting one of my best friends, Erin, who was dating him at the time. I never could have guessed what a pivotal moment in my life those three days would be.
At the time I was in a pretty rough place and felt like I had nowhere to go in life. Erin knew what a nerd I was for space, so unbeknownst to me, the two of them arranged for us to tour the companies they worked for - SpaceX and Northrop Grumman. I just remember repeating to myself, "Wow. This is what I want to do," as we passed rockets and even the James Webb Space Telescope. I never thought I could go onto college as a high school drop out, but they both kept encouraging me that if I wanted to get into engineering, I still could and should. They were both so intentional and caring the whole weekend, even though I had just met him. I went home and applied to college that week.
Three years later, during the pandemic, I finally transferred to CU Boulder. In addition to all the traumas of 2020, I lost sight of my passions and felt hopeless in my degree. I called Maddy and asked him if I was crazy to switch programs after all that time. He laughed and said, "No, f*** calculating distributed loads on trusses. Engineering can be a nightmare. Do what makes you happy." I told him I wanted to be a physicist, and he said to dive in. He told me he sometimes wished he'd gone to school for philosophy, or for anything that could significantly help humanity. How after whatever insane amount of hours he worked each week, he would go home and write hundreds of handwritten postcards and pour himself into the community. I admired him so much and didn't know how I could ever be as good a person as him. I didn't think I really knew anyone else as genuinely good as him. I hope he realizes how much he really did do for humanity.
I don't mean to make this story about me, because this is about Maddy. I just want to share what an influence he's had on my life in the few years we've known each other. I wouldn't be in college if it weren't for him. And as we were leaving his memorial, I got an email with an offer for my absolute dream job, researching quasars (read: very bright black holes.) I can't shake the feeling it was him saying, "keep going, you're on the right path."
I think of you every day in little ways - gratitude for my education, for my job, and for trying to maintain more mindfulness and compassion for others. I think of him when I do my daily Duolingo lessons - we challenged each other to go every day for a year. Did we succeed? Not at all. But it was fun sharing our progress, and I try to keep it up now for him. He was always learning, all the time.
Maddy believed in all of us. He had a special love and hope for humanity, and I hope he knows how much he changed the world. I want to carry on that level of wisdom and kindness every day for the rest of my life.
P.S. I found a couple photos on my old laptop that I will upload as soon as possible. 🖤