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October 11, 2004

Death Returns from Holiday

Christopher Reeve, pictured at right recently and in high school, has died. For many of my generation, Reeve's was the true face of Superman. In my case, that meant that Superman looked a bit like my father (particularly when the former was disguised as Clark Kent).

I recall an evening in the early '80s when my parents were without outfits for a costume party. As a solution, my father cut the Superman symbol out of one of my comic books and held it in his palm. Whenever anybody asked what his costume was, he showed them the symbol and put his finger to his lips: "Shhh!" Such anecdotes accumulated over the years to make my family feel a connection to the actor, although none of us ever met him.

So, I was easily able to comply when Reeve asked a 2002 audience at the University of Rhode Island to "think of loved ones and what might even happen to you in the future and go with your conscience." At that venue, he was promoting the cause that characterized the last years of his life: research and funding to help people in his predicament, including through the use of embryonic stem cells. Even with the complicating emotions, one must conclude that it's an immoral cause. Still, the impulse for Reeve and others to pursue it is entirely understandable — completely human.

More than in the Superman movies, Reeve most succeeded in reaching me with his performance as the title character in a small, Williamstown, Massachusetts, production of Death Takes a Holiday. In that movie/play, Death becomes a man to find out why human beings hate and fear him so. To him, death is just a part of life; moreover, it is a necessary one — a job that somebody must do.

That Christopher Reeve managed to find meaning and purpose after his crippling accident is to be applauded. Even when life is limited to those of its aspects that require a body only minimally, it is precious. It was not his ability to pretend he could fly that brought Reeve into the national spotlight in recent years, after all. Yet, that the meaning that Reeve ultimately found played a role in the process of our society convincing itself that human life — simply by its essential nature — needn't be held as sacred is to be lamented.

Rest in peace, Mr. Reeve. My prayers go with you, in the hopes that you can walk again — with God.

Posted by Justin Katz at October 11, 2004 10:05 AM
Life
Comments

I can't figure out what your position is on stem cells or chris reeve. But I agree with you on hopes that Christopher Reeve is finally at peace.

Posted by: Carrie at October 11, 2004 6:08 PM

Carrie,

Position on embryonic stem cells:

Even with the complicating emotions, one must conclude that it's an immoral cause. ... that the meaning that Reeve ultimately found played a role in the process of our society convincing itself that human life — simply by its essential nature — needn't be held as sacred is to be lamented.

Position on Reeve: Sadness, inspiration, and compassionate disagreement.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 11, 2004 6:32 PM

Reeve is not the only poster-child that the embryonic stem cellers employ either, unfortunately. If people would spend half as much time learning about these issues as they do paying homage to cause celebre, we might get lower theater admission costs.

Posted by: smmtheory at October 13, 2004 3:04 AM

It's too bad the savior John Kerry wasn't elected in 2000 - Reeve would have walked before he died! Heck, he probably wouldn't even have died!

(see Ben Shapiro's column on Townhall.com if you don't know what I'm talking about)

Posted by: Mike S. at October 13, 2004 10:41 AM