October 11, 2004
I'm only a man in a funny red sheet

I've been suffering more than common grief at the death of Christopher Reeve. Not least because of the extremely mundane cause of his death: infection from a bedsore. It reminds those of us who know and love people with spinal-cord injuries just how vulnerable they are.

Before I met my brother-in-law, I thought the major problem with paralysis was, well, not moving: not walking, not running, not driving, etc. I thought that once you got the injury that was it, and you stayed the same after that. Yet in the 15 years that I've known him I've seen what a constant struggle it is to keep things going in an unnaturally immobile body. You have to work to get enough nutrition when you don't digest properly, keep muscles from atrophying, balance the side effects of the drugs you're always on, decide whether to try this or that experimental treatment and deal with the consequences, and so on. The body is such an organic whole that injuring one part can have consequences you never expected. You probably never thought your life depended on being able to roll over in bed, but for Reeve it did.

I know that Reeve's support for stem-cell research didn't endear him to everyone here. But it was important to David, and to me too, to have a brother in arms out there making a pest of himself on behalf of quadruplegics who aren't movie stars. Such injuries are so frightening that most people don't want to even think about them. I know that when David was having a bad spell, when he was thin and wasted and there was pain always in his eyes, I found him difficult to face, much though I wanted to be there for him. I think it's great that Reeve went out there in public, Darth Vader respirator and all, and showed such a brave and optimistic face, especially given the severity of his injury. ("He broke C-4!" David once remarked to me, clearly impressed.) Hold him in the palm of your hand, O Lord, and have mercy on his soul.

Posted by Camassia at October 11, 2004 10:48 AM | TrackBack

I've been very sad about Christopher Reeve's death, too. He was a real inspiration to me, and I think to many people. Your brother-in-law is another such inspiration. I think they inspire me because they live with something every day that I could never fathom, and that must take an uncommon level of strength.

Posted by: Nathan on October 12, 2004 12:49 AM

Thanks for this heartfelt eulogy. I think many of us have been grieving Christopher's death more than we might have expected to mourn for a movie star who none of us actually knew in person...

Posted by: Rachel on October 12, 2004 11:43 AM

Best thing I've read on Reeve's death. And I'm wavering on stem cell research...

Posted by: Hugo on October 13, 2004 09:43 AM
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