On Monday, we lost someone great. We lost someone many of us have looked up to. Dana Reeve died.
We all loved to dream that there really was a Superman. Someone who could save us from our own trials and tribulations. Then Superman became too human and fell off a horse. He was paralyzed. We thought Superman was gone, but we were so wrong. Superman rose again. He became an advocate to those who are paralyzed. He was in a wheelchair with a machine doing his breathing, but he became Superman again. That was Christopher Reeve.
I corresponded with someone in the Christopher Reeve Foundation during that time, and she talked about how Dana was very concerned about the family caregiver. My friend’s attitude showed great respect for Dana Reeve -- wife, mother, caregiver, advocate.
Is it possible that Superman became Superman again partially because of the love and support of his wife? Could he have become Superman again if his wife was not so helpful? Could he have become Superman again if his wife didn't gain the inner strength to continue on and help her husband -- and so many others? I don’t think so.
Then Superman died, but Dana Reeve didn’t falter. She continued to be an inspiration. She experienced great grief, but she continued on. She showed the world her dedication to the foundation she and Superman created. She showed her dedication to the family caregiver. She continued showing her inner strength.
Then her world started turning the full-circle that too often happens. It was just that she was younger, at 44, than many of us family caregivers. She developed lung cancer. At first there was hope, but not too long ago she took a turn for the worse. She became the person needing care.
The world will miss her greatly. We will miss Dana Reeve as much as we miss her Superman. She did prepare their organization for the time she would be gone. And I am sure she prepared their son -- at least as much as possible.
She has been a shining example for all family caregivers. She faced the trials and tribulations of life head-on. She performed her caregiving role with grace and dignity, as she did in her own final weeks. We all know she would love to have changed things, but that was impossible. She didn’t leave her husband because he was paralyzed; she loved him too much to do that. She didn’t abandon the Christopher Reeve’s Foundation after her Superman died. She had too much love for those needing help to do that. Instead, she continued on her journey of helping people.
In Wednesday’s New York Times, Kathy Lewis, the president and chief executive officer of the Christopher Reeve Foundation, said she visited Dana Reeve in the Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center in Manhattan last Thursday. She said that Dana Reeve was tired but maintained "her typical sense of humor and smile, always trying to make other people feel good, her characteristic personality."
I hope we all look at Dana Reeve’s life when we get upset and depressed -- or just plain exhausted from our caregiving. We all know that being a family caregiver is depressing at times, but knowing that someone made that journey and didn’t crumble can help us all. We will miss her and her example.