He was Superman, but by the end of his life he was known as a man of great eloquence and spirit who could not move from his chair.
She was a singer and actress but no one ever thinks of her as being show biz. Dana Reeve struck a chord with everyday Americans because of the way she stood by her husband. And loved her husband. And worked with him to improve the lives of the disabled and try to find a cure for spinal cord injury.
They were beautiful people tapped by fate to reach far beyond their talent and fame to do extremely serious work. When Reeve died in October 2004, nine years after being paralyzed in a fall from a horse, it came not as a shock. He seemed to have lived far beyond what was possible given the extent of his injuries.
But his wife Dana’s death last week was stunning. She was characteristically optimistic when she was diagnosed with lung cancer just 10 months after Reeve’s death, and friends said as recently as two months ago Dana was sure she could beat the killer disease. But all the courage she’d collected and nurtured for a dozen years could not whip the lung cancer that struck this nonsmoker.
And now their 13-year-old son is left without parents, and the public is left to wonder sadly at what cruel injustice this is.
The Reeves were known for their very public crusade for more research of all kinds, especially stem cell research, that could help restore movement to those with spinal cord injuries. Christopher Reeve believed he would one day walk. And his wife could not but believe the man whose super qualities had made it unthinkable that she would ever leave him just because he could no longer hold her.
Dana Reeve made her mark in another facet of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, giving grants to help improve the quality of life of paralyzed people. The foundation helped several Boston-area organizations, including buying equipment for the Hollis Playground in Braintree.
Nothing is quite so moving as watching the human spirit at its best, in the generosity – and the happiness – of people who are able to seize adversity as an opportunity for good. Christopher and Dana Reeve were two such individuals. Gone too soon.
By The Patriot Ledger
Copyright 2006 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Monday, March 13, 2006