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Life and death of a hero|
You were well advised to leave your pity at the door of Christopher Reeve's airy, sun-filled home, hidden amid the rolling ("meadows" ) and white wooden barns of upstate New York. What struck you first, as he was steered into the room, was his commanding height: his throne-like wheelchair lifted his broad-shouldered bulk off the ground; sitting down, you found yourself tilting your head upwards to look at him.
The accident's power over him was diminishing, he said, as his ventilator sucked and hissed. He no longer snapped awake in the quiet hours, forced to confront, all over again, the fact that he had no sensation from the neck down. He didn't need to turn away when he was driven past the barn where he kept Buck, the thoroughbred horse from which he had been thrown in 1995, breaking his neck. But learning to live with his "paralysis" wasn't the same as resigning himself to it. "I've still never had a dream that I'm disabled," he said. "Never." He had vowed, controversially, to walk again by the age of 50. At the time, that deadline was three weeks away.
Walking by 50 had only ever been a hope, not a prediction, Reeve insisted. But what made the news of his death so acutely "disorienting "was the fact that, on some level, so many of us thought that, eventually - albeit a few years behind schedule - he might actually do it. Of course, he had always stressed that ordinary disabled people were the real superheroes in response to the inevitable movie-themed questions. But for the rest of us, the personal narrative was too seductive to resist: Superman, brought down to earth, ultimately triumphs again through sheer force of will.