inspiration

{great love story № 18 | christopher & dana reeve}

by

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As with so many of the greatest of romances, love and tragedy go hand-in-hand. Misfortune and heartbreak seem the cruelest of fates to bestow upon two people so completely in love, but perhaps the sign of a truly boundless love is one that survives the tribulation — and if anything — is stronger at the other side of it. A great love story.

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The love story of Christopher & Dana Reeve is so fraught with tragedy, it is unfair; however, theirs is a love that only deepened from sorrow, and the difference they made in the world following their painful ordeal is incredible . . .

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Christopher Reeve could only be described as extraordinary. Wonderfully talented at every activity he pursued, his mother once said in an interview about him: “He was endowed with a great many extraordinary talents. He had a wonderful mind, wide-ranging interests, a willingness to take risks. He was an athlete and scholar with a passion for acting, which began very, very early.”

From a young age, his aptitude was easily recognisable, and he had a big decision to make, as he could quite easily pursue a career in any field. When Christopher was 14 years old, Milton Lyon, the Artistic Director of the McCarter Theatre said to him, “Chris, you better decide what you want, because you’re going to get it.” It was then that he decided acting would be the path for him.

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In some ways, his exceptional talent could be considered life imitating art, as Christopher’s most famous role was playing the supremely handsome man of steel himself, Superman, in 1978.

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Above, from the film, Somewhere in Time (1980), with Jane Seymour

* * *

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It was in the summer of 1987 that Christopher Reeve attended Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, Massachusetts. On the 30th of June, while sitting front row at a late-night performance by the Cabaret Corps, Christopher immediately noticed one of the singers — a pretty blond with a beautifully vibrant smile and voice like a song-bird — his eyes never left the stage, and at the conclusion of the show, he immediately introduced himself.

It was, of course, Dana, but their introduction certainly left something to be desired as she already had a preconceived notion of him: “He’s going to be an arrogant, stuck-up movie star idiot, and I don’t want anything to do with him!” –[Dana Reeve, as quoted by friend Bonnie Monte]

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Who knows what it was — his strong jawline and mesmerising eyes, his superbly fit physique, or perhaps his obvious passion for the arts — but eventually, Dana agreed to go on a date with Christopher, and the rest, as they say, is history.

On April 11th, 1992, on a rainy day in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Christopher & Dana exchanged vows before a small gathering of family and close friends. The intimate ceremony was simple, but exceedingly romantic, and their plain, gold wedding bands spoke volumes of what was truly important to them: their deep and endless love, not movie star status.

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It was in 1985 that Christopher had taken up horse riding after filming the movie Anna Karenina. As with every task he set his mind to, he was exceedingly good and it was not long before he began competing in events. As Dana had long been an accomplished horse rider herself, it was yet another mutual interest they shared, and the pair would spend long days riding and jumping. In May 1995, Christopher travelled to Culpeper, Virginia to compete in a jumping event on his thoroughbred stallion, Eastern Express, or more affectionately known as Buck. On the third jump — a standard three foot jump – Buck made a refusal, which resulted in Christopher being thrown over his horse and the jump, and landing awkwardly on the other side.

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Tragically, Christopher’s first and second vertebrae had been shattered, he was now a quadriplegic. The thought of receiving news of this caliber is unimaginable, and we can only guess at the notions that would play through one’s mind. The recovery and rehabilitation that lay ahead would have been daunting, and the prospect of their life from then on would be overwhelming. However, love in its truest form would unite two people in the face of tragedy, and Dana would not let go of Christopher’s hand throughout the entire journey.

At one particularly difficult stage during his rehabilitation, Christopher quietly whispered to Dana, “Maybe we should let me go.” To this, she tearfully, but forcefully replied, “I am only going to say this once: I will support whatever you want to do, because this is your life, and your decision. But I want you to know that I’ll be with you for the long haul, no matter what. You’re still you. And I love you.”

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After six long months of rehabilitation and drastic renovations to their Bedford, New York home, Christopher & Dana returned home, a very different couple, but more in love then ever. Never shying away from a challenge, Christopher decided to use his very public profile to educate people on and raise awareness of spinal cord injuries. Further to his many television interviews, Christopher became Chairman of the American Paralysis Association and Vice Chairman of the National Organization on Disability as well as founding the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, which raises much needed research money.

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All the while, his beloved wife Dana was by his side, out of the spotlight, but always supporting, helping, loving — the press labelled her Saint Dana, and Superwoman to which she replied : “Initially I felt very uncomfortable with that. There was nothing superhuman about standing by Chris. [That compliment] always felt a little false. Like, what’s so saintly about that? Lucky me. I’m with him! And I thought, ‘Really my job here is to be the voice for the many, many spouses who are caregivers, who don’t have the advantage of the world patting them on the back every day.”

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For the Reeves’, life was carrying on as ‘normally’ as possible. It was October of 2004, and Christopher & Dana were working on opposite sides of the country — Christopher was promoting The Brooke Ellison Story, which he had directed, and Dana was performing on stage in Los Angeles. It was the first time since the accident that they had been so far apart. Christopher was being treated at the time for a pressure wound and had been prescribed antibiotics. On Saturday the 9th of October, Christopher took his evening dose of the antibiotic and suddenly went into cardiac arrest before falling into a coma. The reaction was so sudden and unexpected, and upon hearing the news, Dana could do nothing but board the next flight home. The hours before she could be beside Christopher’s side must have felt like an eternity — landing in New York, Dana raced to the North Westchester Hospital where Christopher had been admitted.

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Despite his comatose state, it seemed as though Christopher was waiting for Dana, as shortly after her arrival, he tragically passed away.

After all they had been through, after surviving for so long, it was incomprehensible for it to end like this, so suddenly. But it had. Dana, although grieving, knew that Christopher had left an incredible legacy, and the work and research he had set in motion could not end now. One month after his death, Dana was unanimously elected the new chairperson of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. Christopher was gone, but he lived on through the amazing work Dana was now doing on his behalf.

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Suddenly, I feel like I don’t have that choice anymore. I have to carry on his mission.” –Dana Reeve

Christopher had often been described as extraordinary, but it is also a perfectly accurate description of the love story of Christopher & Dana Reeve. For every heartrending event thrown at them, they managed to not only fall more deeply in love, but used the occurrence to make a difference in the world. Passionate, determined, resolute — Christopher & Dana’s great love story is inspiring and encouraging, for they have proven that even in the face of tragedy, true love will conquer all.

* * *

Note: Following Christopher’s death, Dana discovered she had lung cancer [she was not a smoker]. Tragically, Dana passed away only 18 months after Christopher.

Joey

previously

* great love stories № 01 | grace kelly & prince rainer III of monaco
* great love stories № 02 | nacho figueras & delfina blaquier
* great love stories № 03 | shah jahan & mumtaz mahal
* great love stories № 04 | elizabeth taylor & richard burton
* great love stories № 05 | prince william & kate middleton
* great love stories № 06 | audrey hepburn & robert wolders
* great love stories № 07 | napoleon bonaparte & maria walewska
* great love stories № 08 | john f. kennedy jr. & carolyn bessette
* great love stories № 09 | paul newman & joanne woodward
* great love stories № 10 | ricky & ralph lauren
* great love stories № 11 | frank sinatra & ava gardner
* great love stories № 12 | diana & reed vreeland
* great love stories № 13 | humphrey bogart & lauren bacall
* great love stories № 14 | david & victoria beckham
* great love stories № 15 | katharine hepburn & spencer tracey
* great love stories № 16 | farrah fawcett & ryan o’neal

* great love stories № 17 | carlo ponti & sophia loren

[image sources & credits : one /// two /// three /// four /// five /// six /// seven /// eight /// nine /// ten /// eleven /// twelve /// thirteen /// fourteen /// fifteen /// sixteen /// seventeen /// eighteen /// inineteen]

Contributor, Australia

Inspired by film noir, F. Scott Fitzgerald novels & the thought of a summer spent in Paris, this high tea connoisseur enjoys photography & designing & making her own clothes. Joey has been buying fashion, wedding & interior design magazines since a wonderfully young age, and would spend hours browsing through their glossy pages making ‘inspirational’ scrapbooks. Never spotted without high heels, a sketchpad, a pop of pink lipstick & a strong coffee— Joey adores great love stories, chandeliers, crème brûlée, the French countryside & sequins & sparkles & her long time sweetheart— the love of her life whose kisses still give her butterflies …
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14 Notes
  • So sad and so strong love story.
    Maybe I have to rephrase; not sad but deep and enduring love that gives balance and eternal bliss. Lucky they had each other..

  • Anonymous said...

    I always felt like they really did love each other in a way that was (and still is) so rare. They say couples who are so close dont live long without each other .. when I got to the end of the story and read that she died 18 months later my heart literally hurt. But the story is also very inspirational, to stand by your loved ones no matter what.

  • So inspiring! A true love. I had no idea she passed away so quickly after him.

  • Inspiring story indeed. Thanks for the great posts, I just started following you :)

  • Wow, what an incredible love story. I could only image and wish for a love like theirs. So beautiful together.

    Always,

    Mostly Lisa

  • This tragic story really touches my heart but also it makes me think of love in a different way.

  • This story is so touching, as are all your love story features, please please keep them coming!

  • beautiful story with an avoidable tragedy.
    this would make a great film.

    ;)

  • I’ve never heard of this story and I’m too afraid to read, will it make me cry? I am going to check out previous love stories now, Grace Kelly mmmm

  • Anonymous said...

    I would love to read about Cleopatra and Marc Anthony, it’s such a classic story.

  • this was such a lovely and heartbreaking story. i remember it being on the news about Christopher dying, but i never knew about Dana.
    thankyou for writing this

  • My Lord I wasnt expecting this when I saw the post on Twitter! Perhaps it was the element of surprise, if you will, that struck me as hard, though I truly do though feel it is the epicness of the Reeve’s story. We done doll, what a great read.

  • You make me cry remembering this, but, certainly, they were a great example of true love.

    Thanks for this post.

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