One Sunday, several years ago, one of the children knocked on my office door just before the start of the second service and said, with great excitement, “Superman is here!” He had seen Christopher Reeve negotiating the handicap ramp after wheeling himself out of his van.
I introduced myself, welcoming him and Dana, and the aid who was at his side. We made a space for him to maneuver his chair down into the first row, just in front of the lectern. Each time he came, from then on, that’s where he would sit, with Dana at his side, and an aid; and sometimes his son Will. On a couple of occasions he was accompanied by his older children — his daughter Alexandra and his son Matthew.
Dana Reeve came to the church by herself, at first. I didn’t know she was here. She was looking for a place where she and Chris could be supported in their spiritual quest. Shortly after they started attending services, Dana said to me, “You know, Frank, I’ve been coming for awhile, by myself, but I was able to remain anonymous.” She smiled.
Dana smiled a lot. She was full of life. Energy. Strength. Determination. Her tears were kept private, mostly. Anonymous. She told me that there were plenty of tears. Of course!
Over the years with them I learned a bit about what it’s like to live in the public eye—the price.
I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with Chris, one to one; and with Dana, too, especially after Chris’s death. In addition to the visits, we talked on the phone and exchanged notes and messages, just keeping in touch. It was a privilege and honor to be her minister.
Then came Dana’s mother’s death, just a few months after Chris’s. Then came her cancer. In the midst of her treatments came her father’s stroke. She and I talked about the story of Job; I brought up the phrase ‘annus horribilis,’ used by Queen Elizabeth II in 1992 after the marriages of her two sons Charles and Andrew broke down and Windsor Castle caught fire.
Last Thursday we did a service in honor of Dana’s life at the home of one of her friends. At that service I said, “Dana had a deep spiritual life; she didn’t make a display of piety – her very being was spiritual…she was a rare and beautiful spirit, and that spirit will live in each of us – because we were touched by it – more than just touched by it, we absorbed it. We loved her for it; and just as importantly we’re now able to love one another better because of her, and we’re better able to love ourselves better because of her. That’s a kind of immortality – it’s very real; it’s deep.”
Another service is being planned, just as Dana did following Chris’s death. It will be held at a theater in the City, but it will be private, in the sense that it will be by invitation.
I will include a celebration of Dana’s life as part of our Easter Sunday service. I did a special service here, in honor of Chris, which Dana attended and to my surprise she came forward, lit a candle and spoke about their appreciation for all of us here at the church.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot going on here: The Clarence Darrow presentation this Friday evening and Sunday afternoon; Spring Fling the following Saturday, April 1, and the very special service, in celebration of the life and vitality of our congregation on Sunday April 2. See you!