The end is here. Super.
Ordinary heroes are hard enough to find some days, but you’ll hear plenty of stories about community superheroes this time of year. People yearn to feel good when something’s finished, even if it’s a calendar.
“Hope you have a happy, healthy new year,” we say, weak with thoughts of champagne and midnight kisses and new outlooks.
Yet endings show up for the brave and courageous, too, and endings arrive without happies and healthies or warm fuzzies.
Superman proved this to me, with the help of his wife.
She was my Sunday school teacher one year, but I just remember the Gushers she brought for snacks. Now I’m too old for a godmother, and I’m maxed out on fun aunts, so maybe she’ll settle for Wonder Woman.
Superman had survived blood clots, immunity to chemo, misdiagnoses and a host of other medical unpleasantries. He even kept his tongue, but only after his wife intervened in the case of surgical confusion. Facing the prospect of having one healthy part removed from your otherwise dysfunctional body seems a best case for identity theft if there were one.
Through everything, Wonder Woman stayed and fought for her Superman.
She laughed. She cried.
She shared their joys and jokes on Facebook because Superman retains super humor despite the prospect of mortality.
This woman worked full days and spent nights at the hospital or long-term care facility. Wherever Superman landed, she followed.
A good day meant her husband was granted a few hours to eat a Thanksgiving lunch at his home, but he had to take his cake back to the hospital. Not-so-good days yielded Facebook status updates with medical jargon such as “hemoglobin levels” and “septic” that Wonder Woman translated into more meaningful words: “very bad,” “kryptonite.”
And so this brave, knowledgeable woman met the inner circle of seasonal cheer with the understanding that happy and healthy wouldn’t qualify as apt descriptions for this closure.
As proteins accumulated in Superman’s body, it shut down like a mower clogged with grass that slowly spins to a stop. He couldn’t use his arms or legs in the final months. When his organs failed, that was it, and it happened a few days before Christmas.
The incredible burden Wonder Woman deftly handled has shown me – and, I suspect, many of the nurses, friends, and family – one of life’s truths.
The Wizard of Oz said that only unbreakable hearts are practical. Magician Penn Jillette wrote that love, like eating fire, is stupid, and he defined stupid as a scenario when “if you do everything right, you still get hurt.”
They of the mystical and illusionary impart to us, the normal people, that a thing as undefined and intangible as a bond between souls can’t be real, shouldn’t be trusted.
Makes sense to me, me being a mid-twenties male who identifies as a sarcastic, independent, hopeless romantic with the intelligence to stay a cynic in the matters of handing his heart to anyone.
But a wonderful woman taught me that love wins – ordinary, there-everyday, non-super love wins.
My parents have demonstrated it.
My friends have found it.
Superman and Wonder Woman made me believe it.