Actor Christopher Reeve suffered a tragic accident that left him paralyzed forever. His wife, Dana Reeve, became his caregiver but died from lung cancer just a year after her husband’s death. Their son Will was orphaned at 13 years old and shared how he survived this significant loss.
Christopher Reeve was an American actor and a hero in many ways. He was famously known for his heroic role as Superman in three movie sequels.
The actor did not have an easy life, but the love he shared with his second wife, Dana Reeve, kept him going to his last breath.
According to the book, “Somewhere In Heaven,” by Christopher Anderson, which is about the tragic love story of Reeve and Dana, the couple met at the Williamstown theater festival. For the actor, it was love at first sight.
Dana was a 26-year-old singer, and Reeve was a big movie star. As much as the “Superman” alum was already hooked and madly in love, the singer needed to be convinced because she was not sure about Revere’s intentions, but it did not take long for him to charm Dana.
The couple spent the night talking; they got lost in each other’s company and forgot all about their surroundings. Anderson wrote that this day was important and celebrated in their lives together.
According to Anderson, the couple fell in love quickly, but it took time for them to walk down the aisle because Reeve had reservations about marriage. His parents were divorced, and Dana’s parents were married for 45 years, so the couple came from two colliding worlds.
Four years into dating, Dana wanted a committed relationship with Reeve. Friends of the singer also emphasized that the singer did not force Reeve to marry her, but she simply wanted a more secure future for them as a couple.
When Dana told Reeve that they would have to end their relationship while the movie star worked on his issues with marriage, the actor took the liberty to get over his fear and went for therapy.
After he worked through his issues, the couple welcomed their only son Will and married shortly after that. Although it took a while for them to tie the knot, Anderson quoted Dana in his book, and she expressed that they were lucky enough to get rid of “all the garbage” in their relationship before getting married.
However, life for the couple was not always easy, they faced a tragic and life-altering accident, but Dana did not give up on their love.
Christopher Reeve’s Tragic Accident
Life for the newlyweds and new parents was going well for Dana and Reeve until the fateful day of the actor’s life-altering accident.
On May 27, 1995, Reeve was involved in an almost fatal horse-riding accident. According to the Christoper Reeve organization website, Reeve loved horse riding and regularly participated in equestrian competitions.
On the day of his accident, Reeve participated in another competition with 300 other riders in the small town of Culpeper, Virginia. As the actor approached the triple hole jump, his horse forcefully stopped, threw Reeve across the barrier, and fell head first.
The accident left Reeve paralyzed from the neck down, which meant he was set to be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. The Christopher Reeve website also stated that doctors declared it impossible for the actor to walk or regain mobility in his body.
Reeve’s mother reportedly begged the doctors to let her son go and stop his ventilation, but his wife, Dana, saw this tragedy as a sign of their renewed purpose as a couple.
Reeve also did not see the way forward for him and was adamant about pulling the plug, said Anderson. He added:
“I talked to the surgeon who reattached his skull to his spine. He told me, ‘oh, yeah he wanted to end it right then because he didn’t feel his life was worth living.’ ”
Reeve was described as an active person who loved to explore, whether it was flying a plane, sailing a yacht, or playing tennis. So for his mobility to be permanently altered, life felt like it had no meaning.
His rock and supporter, Dana, understood her husband’s pain, but according to Anderson’s book, the singer made a pact with Reeve that would eventually save his life and bring light to it.
The words that Dana expressed to her husband were what kept him alive; the singer said, “I still love you. ‘Hold on for two years; if you still feel this way two years, for now, we will reconsider this question.”
Dana wholeheartedly took on the role of Reeve’s caregiver while raising their son Will but stayed positive throughout the journey.
There were difficult moments, and Anderson revealed that the singer was offered a massage therapist as she spent most days at the hospital, but she refused and said she did not want to let go because she was afraid she would not stop crying.
According to Anderson, Dana’s pact was a sales tactic, but that was because the singer saw her husband’s tragedy as a way to inspire and empower people who faced detrimental spinal cord injuries.
Christopher Reeve Used His Tragedy to Change the World
Reeve turned a new leaf in life and used his injury to improve the quality of life for people who have also suffered spinal cord fractures.
In 1999 Reeve started the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, a national non-profit that helped raise funds for research and the development of different treatments.
According to the Christopher Reeve Organization website, the foundation raised over $130 million for research and offered research grants worth 30 million to other local organizations.
Reeve did not only focus on the research, but the actor reportedly took the time to travel across the US and spread awareness about spinal cord injuries and more disabilities.
Reeve’s organization reportedly helped 10 000 injured people and their families. The president and CEO of the organization, Peter Wilderotter, attested that Reeve toured the world speaking to scientists, philanthropists, enterprises, and more to improve the research and push awareness as much as possible.
Wilderotter expressed how the research and interest in paralysis and spinal cord injuries accelerated. A 2004 newspaper article by The Telegraph also praised the actor for the lives that he impacted through his foundation. Reeve went from playing a superhero in his films to becoming a real-life hero.
Reeve became the voice and hope for people living with paralysis. The Telegraph thus emphasized that the actor will and should be included as one of the foundational people to humanize and raise awareness about such complex medical treatments. His legacy will live forever.
Christopher Reeve Spent His Last Day Alive with His Son
For Reeve to turn his accident into a moment to help others was heroic; however, the actor still dealt with the pain and difficulty of being paralyzed.
He could not play with his son and could not feel his wife’s touch, but some moments kept him alive. In his book “Still Me” Reeve wrote about the ups and downs of his injury.
The actor gave a candid account of the depressive episodes he would experience, but then he also expressed that each time Dana walked in, he saw a reason to continue living.
Reeve said he and his family would go out to the courtyard under a not-so-tall tree that Will loved to climb. The actor said Will would be excited to show off his climbing skills, and those were the moments that distracted him from his reality.
The injury took a toll on the actor, and in his book, he blamed himself for burdening and ruining his children’s lives. All of these feelings led to the dreadful conversation of letting him go.
Reeve wrote that while he and Dana were under the tree watching Will, he told her, “maybe it was time we let me go.’ He said Dana immediately started crying, but this time she did not make a pact with him; instead, she told him she loved him and respected whatever decision he made with his life.
Despite these painful moments, Reeve held on until fate took the wheel. On October 9, 2004, Reeve’s last day alive, the actor spent it with his son Will.
A close friend of the actor, Ken Regan, told People that Reeve went to see Will’s hockey game. Regan said he tried his best to attend all his son’s games. After the game, Regan added that they went home and spent the rest of the day watching baseball.
According to The Danish Village Voice, Reeve suffered an unexpected cardiac arrest, leading him into a coma, but he never regained consciousness. On October 10, 2004, the actor was announced dead.
He lived ten years longer after this accident, but his death was still painful for Dana. When Reeve passed, Will was only 12 years old. The actor also had two children, Mathew, 25, and Alexandra, 21, from his long-term relationship with model Gae Exton.
After losing her husband, Dana put her singing and acting career on hold and focused on raising her son and the foundation she started with Reeve, reported The Spokesman-Review.
Dana expressed that her motivation to keep going was to keep her husband’s memory alive and the legacy he left behind with his foundation.
But the Reeve family was shortly faced with more bad news. Dana was diagnosed with lung cancer. The singer was never a smoker and believed she would fight this battle.
However, at 44, Dana lost her battle with cancer and died a year and a half after her husband. Her son Will was orphaned at the young age of thirteen in 17 months.
What Happened to Will Reeve after the Death of His Parents?
One can only imagine what Will felt after suddenly losing his parents. According to People, Dana had arranged for her son to stay in Bedford, New York, with the people he grew up with.
As a grown 26-year-old, Will had an interview with CBS news and looked back at the devastating time and grief he experienced at 13 years old.
Will wrote that he was at his lowest after the death of his parents, but he still had the strength to see the good in all the bad that surrounded him.
“… This is the low point. There’s nowhere to go but up, and that’s exactly where you’re headed.” he wrote. Will vowed to dedicate his life to honoring his parents.
He knew the challenge would not be easy, but Will told Good Morning America he felt his purpose was to be his father and “seamlessly carry his legacy.”
At 29, Will had a growing career as a sports journalist, and he realized he had to redefine what living out his parents’ legacy looked like.
In an interview with Good morning America, the journalist expressed that he thought honoring his father meant following in his exact footsteps.
But it came to his attention that parents simply want their children to be happy and do what they love. Will’s job has allowed him to travel the world and report on real-life stories, and he said he knew his mother and father would be proud.
The journalist is still raising funds for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Will is a sports journalist and an athletic person that grew up playing sports; however, he told People running was not his thing, yet he still entered the New York City marathon to help his father’s foundation.
Will was part of Team Reeve, a group of 500 runners to raise $500,000. Willi’s personal goal was to raise $30,000, reaching a whopping $25,000.
Although running a marathon would not be easy, Will was willing to take the challenge by the horns to keep his parents’ legacy alive and make them proud.
Will is also a board member of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which means the journalist is hands-on and fighting for spinal cord injury treatments.
As Will got older, he realized the different ways his father’s and mother’s memory would continue to live. He told People that their legacy would never die, the foundation might be the tangible part of it, but his life and the lives of his siblings are an additional special part of it.