Three weeks after the death of Christopher Reeve, his widow, Dana, 43, invited about 900 to a memorial at the Juilliard School in Manhattan. She was warm and composed as she told their friends and family she had stood by her husband of 12 years in sickness and in health. But she fought back tears when she noted she would be unable to honor another vow: to love him until death did them part. She would, she said, love him long after that. Below are some of her remarks.
Chris frequently expressed that he wanted any memorial tribute for him to be a celebration of his life. And we will try to honor that today, I know, but I don’t think he realized at the time just how much he would be missed—how difficult it would be to feel celebratory when all we really want is to have him back. We didn’t get him here on earth for long enough. But he had a powerful, mystical energy that I know I have felt since his passing, and I have a hunch that here today, in this theater filled with people he cared about, we’ll conjure up some of his amazing, beautiful spirit.
A sharp wit, a great mind, genuine artistry and, as [Chris and Dana’s son] Will mentioned, a generous capacity to love were Chris’s salvation in the last, most challenging decade of his life. He got through every day calling upon these abundant inner resources and through the grace and steadfast commitment of those around him. You have never met a group of more dedicated people than the people who worked with Chris. His nurses, aides, doctors and personal assistants were also his dear and beloved friends. This blessed army, this family, made it possible for Chris to spend every day accomplishing what he wanted to accomplish with hopefulness and dignity. And they did it with great cheer and ironclad loyalty. Each and every one of them contributed a piece of their heart and soul to Chris’s daily life. There will never be a way to adequately thank them.
Chris’s life was too short. He had much he still wanted to accomplish, his children had much they still wanted to learn from him, and although he would not have chosen to live life with a disability, he and I often spoke of the hidden gifts and precious life lessons learned by living with his disability’s daily challenges. The last 9½ years had many, many moments of genuine pleasure and joy and laughter—moments uncompromised by his disability and, in some ways, even enhanced by it. Our life was a life lived with deep meaning and love, and I wish—as I know Chris did—that that life, complete with the challenges of living it, could have gone on for a much longer time. Over the past several years, Chris really came to feel at peace with his situation, and he was able to feel genuine gratitude for the insights and special appreciation for life’s gifts that his disability brought him.
It was an ongoing theme for Chris before his accident that he wanted to make a real difference in the world, leave a legacy. He wanted to leave the world a better place for his having lived in it. There is no question that he achieved that goal. And happily, he became well aware of the fact that he was leaving a legacy, that his life did have an impact on the betterment of the world. This sense of accomplishment was one of the tremendous gifts he was given.