Can you be your spouse’s Superhero?

[Imagine here an impressive copyrighted photo of Christopher Reeve playing Superman in the namesake 1977 movie…]

I think Christopher Reeve had a pretty big impact on my life… Clark Kent is the “signature staff member” in the TNT sample database. Superheroes and fictional characters populate this teaching database, but the core characters are Clark Kent and those in his circle.

Christopher Reeve portrayed Superman and Clark Kent in the four Superman movies between 1978 and 1987. In some ways, this series launched the superhero movie genre which is now Hollywood’s top genre. (I’m listening to John Williams’ great Superman soundtrack as I write this.)

Reeve was an avid horseman. In 1995, at age 42, he was thrown from a horse and completely paralyzed. He and his wife Dana started the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. The foundation has distributed more than $138 million in grants “to finding treatments and cures for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and other neurological disorders” (Wikipedia).

On Friday, October 8, 2004, the foundation’s leadership team held a routine planning meeting. They talked about some worst-case scenarios. They considered an action plan if/when Christopher Reeve died unexpectedly. One of the staff noted that it was morbid to even talk that way! After all, besides his paralysis, Christopher Reeve was a healthy 52-year-old.

Two days later, Christopher Reeve died unexpectedly of a heart attack.

That’s a distant story, but another one came closer to home.

A missionary supported by my home church had joined our organization’s staff several years before I did; in fact, it was his influence and others like him that were instrumental in me choosing to go into full-time missions. It was with great shock and sadness when I heard that he died in an auto accident.

You’ve probably known co-workers or friends (or even family members) who died suddenly, either through accidents or a health issue. These unexpected deaths are followed by a chaotic scramble to figure out what the future holds or even how to produce a letter to pass this news on. The spouse is missing key information such as logins and passwords, financial accounts, newsletter lists, et cetera.

There’s NO best ratio or gender role for who does what. BUT… when one person does it all and the other is clueless, that’s a risk. If one person handled key things like managing the household finances, or doing partnership development, their unexpected death brings grief and chaos.

I’ll come right out and ask the difficult questions. If you died today…

  • Would your spouse know how to keep raising personal support?
  • Would she or he be able to produce your monthly newsletter?
  • Would she or he even be able to send out the very difficult first letter?
  • Would she or he know where the payroll forms are and the ministry reimbursement forms are? And how to prepare and submit them?

In our organization, we’re encouraged to create “The Red Folder”, primarily for personal finances. This should be our one place where all the most important family financial information is stored. When one (or even both) spouses die suddenly, those left behind should then have the ability to immediately engage in finances.
Consider how difficult it would be for your spouse to make financial decisions and do ongoing reimbursement and tax paperwork. Can he or she continue with MPD and communication with your team all while under a lot of emotional distress?

Be your spouse’s superhero by engaging him or her in your regular partnership development. At least expose them to TNT and how to do the basics.


  • This blog post came out of a conversation with a co-worker who has this exact concern because she is the one who does all of the admin for their family PD. She also gave extensive editorial assistance in producing it.
  • The story about Christopher Reeve is one I recall from memory; however that was 20 years ago… so my recollections may not be perfect.

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