He was 3 years old when his father was paralyzed for life. As the little boy grew up, he lost his dad at 11 years old. And two years later, Will Reeve became an orphan after losing his mother to lung cancer.
Christopher Reeve and his wife Dana’s only son, Will, did not have it easy growing up. He could never play catch with his dad after the Superman actor was injured and paralyzed in a 1995 accident. Although his father was the much-loved face of Superman and his mother was also well-known, Will insists that his parents gave him an extremely normal childhood.
“They were the people who told me to turn off the TV, to eat my broccoli, to go to bed,” Will Reeve said on People’s List interview on ABC, according to 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.”
Although his father was paralyzed after a horseback riding incident when Will Reeve was really young, the actor still has fond memories of him as well as his mother. In an open letter that the son wrote to his 13-year-old self, he said, as quoted by CBS News, “You will always remember the good stuff. Dad in the driveway teaching you how to ride a bike just by telling you what to do, you trusting him so fully that you just do it. Mom’s singing voice filling the air with sweetness at home and in the car to school.”
But losing both his parents within a period of two years put Will Reeve through an extremely tough phase in his life. “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,” he wrote to his younger self in the same letter. “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. Now you’re at a new bottom and you’re terrified and confused and just so sad. 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.”
Certainly, life did take him upwards from that low point in his life. Will Reeve was adopted by his next-door neighbors and he grew up to be a successful sports journalist. But most importantly, he is carrying forward the significant work his parents began in the search to find a cure for paralysis.
The young man is aware that his father isn’t loved just for being Superman but also because of the person he was and his determination to improve the life of people with paralysis
“It’s a serene empowerment knowing that I have my parent’s values instilled in me,” Will Reeve told People. “I am so fortunate to have had my parents, specifically, as my parents… They instilled all the best of themselves, I hope, into me. It’s an honor to try to be like them.”
He, along with his half-siblings, Matthew and Alexandra Reeve, have been continuing their legacy through the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. This way, his parents’ lives will continue to make a difference to people even after they’ve have passed on.
“I think his legacy is never going to go away and think that is a responsibility that I feel, to carry his and my mother’s legacy on for the rest of my life and hopefully beyond that,” the 27-year-old told People. “I think that the foundation is one way, one tangible way, that his legacy and my mom’s legacy will always live on. And I think the way that I, and my siblings, live our lives is another way. And I think that his impact is felt by the millions of lives that he touched.”
In the manner in which he and his siblings are carrying forward their work, he hopes that it would make his parents proud. Now, when he looks back at the past few years, he believes his mom and dad taught him everything they needed to when they were alive and they continued to feel their guidance after they passed away.
“It sounds simple and clichéd, but just be you,” Will Reeve wrote in the touching letter to his 13-year-old self. “Because you are what will make mom and dad most proud. Every moment you spent with them, they were preparing you for a life without them. You have their values and Mom’s eyes and Dad’s smile. I want you to know that we do not have all of this figured out. 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?”