In his Michael L. Printz Honor Award-winning novel “The Monstrumologist,” author Rick Yancey deftly described how it feels to lose a father or mother. “A child has little defense against the sight of a parent laid low,” he wrote.
“Parents, like the earth beneath our feet and the sun above our heads, are immutable objects, eternal and reliable. If one should fall, who might vouch the sun itself won’t fall, burning, into the sea?”
I understand exactly what Yancey was saying. My father was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor while I was on my honeymoon.
Will Reeve also knows how it feels. The son of famed actor Christopher Reeve had to watch his father suffer as a quadriplegic after a horse-riding accident severed his first and second vertebrae in 1995.
He passed away in 2004 after treatment for a septic bedsore led to cardiac arrest. Yet that was only the beginning of the family’s travails.
Soon after, his wife and caregiver Dana Reeve learned that she had malignant lung cancer. It was a horrible irony since she had never smoked.
A mere 17 months after Christopher Reeve’s death, Dana followed him to the grave. That left Will, their only son, all alone at the tender age of 13.
Will captured that terrible blend of emotions in a letter to himself, writing, “You’re at the lowest point of your life. You’re in a hospital room in New York City, and you’ve just said your final goodbye to Mom.
“You’re 13. She’s 44. Lung cancer. Never smoked. Gone, just like Dad, who died a year-and-a-half ago, which at the time was the lowest you had been.”
Yet Will, who is now 26 years old, didn’t allow himself to stay mired in misery. “But! Here’s the good news: this is the low point.
“There’s nowhere to go but up, and that’s exactly where you’re headed. You will always remember the good stuff.”
Indeed, the contributor to ESPN’s SportsCenter has stated that the guiding hand of his parents made him the person he is today. “They were the people who told me to turn off the TV, to eat my broccoli, to go to bed,” he told People.
“I understand that not every child experiences going to the grocery store and seeing their dad on the magazine at the checkout aisle. But … it was a totally normal childhood.”
Christopher and Dana did everything they could to ensure that Will experienced all of the normal things a kid should — even after the horrible accident. In fact, Christopher taught Will how to ride a bike while in his wheelchair.
“I didn’t believe it was gonna work,” Will recalled. “I’m terrified, but I have my dad’s voice behind me going, ‘Steady, steady, left, right, left, right.’
“By the third lap, I’m smiling, looking at my dad, waving, and he’s smiling. That meant so much to him. Later on, I would race him in the wheelchair.”
Will continues to credit his mother and father, saying that their example continues to guide him even to this day. “I want you to know that we do not have all of this figured out,” he wrote in that letter to himself.
“But you know that in the years ahead, you will face no obstacle greater than the one you are starting to overcome right now, and no matter which way your journey leads, mom and dad will be there with you every step of the way. How lucky are you?”