Their commitment to each other is the stuff of legends. Even when he thought he had had enough and was ready to, Dana's love for him kept him alive.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on June 3, 2021. It has since been updated.
Whoever says that love at first sight doesn't exist probably hasn't heard about legendary actor Christopher Reeve - who made the character of Superman and Clark Kent iconic - and his wife Dana.
However, their epic relationship was built on a lot more than that. They were struck with tragedy very early in their marriage and have waded past the pain to create the happiest life possible.
Dana was all of 25 when they first met. Christopher saw her when she was performing at a late-night cabaret show. "I was performing in this late-night cabaret where the actors perform after hours," she said in an interview with Good Morning America a little over a year ago. "It's always a raucous good time, and I got up and I sang The Music That Makes Me Dance. And I have a friend. … She was sitting near Chris, and she said, 'I knew the definition of thunderstruck,'" according to ABC News.
At the end of the show, he wanted to speak to her and ask her out but she wasn't very enthusiastic about it initially. According to Thisisglamorous, her initial thought was: "He’s going to be an arrogant, stuck-up movie star idiot, and I don’t want anything to do with him!”
However, she saw past all of that and realized she was with a talented and beautiful human being. After dating for several years, they finally tied the knot in 1992 in an intimate ceremony, sealing their love and commitment into a pure bond. She vowed that she would be with him in sickness and in health, till death do them apart. In the course of their marriage, this was something they had to revisit many times. She stood by him until he passed away due to cardiac arrest.
But why did she need to be a woman of steel herself?
In 1995, three years after their marriage, Christopher, who was a horse-riding enthusiast, was thrown off a horse during a jumping event, and his first and second vertebrae were shattered and he became a quadriplegic. Singing was always a part of her life and later in their relationship she used it to soothe her "Superman" while he lay unconscious after the accident that changed the course of their life. According to the website, TV over Mind, he suffered through fluid buildup in his lungs, constant pain, and became unable to breathe on his own. He was also completely paralyzed from the neck down. He was so shocked and depressed that he even considered ending his life. But, she did not let him.
In an interview on television program 20/20, Christopher said, "When I first was coming out of, you know, unconsciousness and you have the thought 'Maybe it's not worth everybody's trouble,'" and in a particularly difficult moment, he told his wife, "Maybe we should let me go."
"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," Dana said to him. She later addressed this on a public forum, and said, "When it's actually the person you love, the person you know and there's no head injury, no brain damage," she said then. "It's him. It's the essence of him, and that's what I said to him. I said, 'It's you.'"
She only asked him to hold on for two more years and then come to a decision about his life or death. He held on for many many years.
The relationship took on a new color after this incident. They became more grateful for the time they had together. "We've now transcended into something where our moments together are even more valuable than they ever were. Dana has not missed one day in the 12 weeks, driving often three hours a day just to come to be with me. And I would not be where I am today with the positive outlook that I have and the sense of real hope and purpose if it were not for Dana," said Christopher quoted ABC News.
She was a devoted wife who made sure that he would recover as much as was possible. She sat by him each and every day and helped him go through physical therapy.
"We're as physical with each other as we can be. And we're as close as we can be. As you notice, I don't know many couples who have been together for 15 years who do sit hand in hand. Or who, I mean, we kiss all the time," said Dana in 2002.
Christopher leveraged his public profile to educate people on and raise awareness about spinal cord injuries. He became the Chairman of the American Paralysis Association and Vice Chairman of the National Organization on Disability, as well as founding the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. And Dana was by his side at ever step.
In 2004, their love story came to an end when he passed away. She never stopped loving him and did not live long after he left the world. Two years after he died, she too passed away at the age of 44 from lung cancer.
"I made a vow to Chris when we married that I would love him, and I would be with him, in sickness and in health, and I did OK with that. But there's another vow that I need to amend today. I promised to love, honor and cherish him till death do us part, well I can't do that. Because I will love, honor and cherish him forever," she once said, according to ABC News.
Cover image: Getty Images | Photos by (L) Keystone / Staff, (R) Matthew Peyton / Stringer