Dear friends, I can barely breathe, much less find the words to adequately describe the depths of my sorrow on this day. By now, I’m sure most of you have heard: we lost Carrie Fisher. 2016 has dimmed yet another brilliant star. And this one hits us right in the heart. We have lost our beloved Princess…no…much more than that…
We have lost our Queen.
In the realms we so cherish, science fiction and fantasy, we shall never see her equal.
To say Carrie was a trailblazer would be to put it mildly. At just nineteen years old she swept into the galaxy far, far away with all the bravado and attitude of her male co-leads and, for much of her screen time, she stole the show. Here was a young girl at the forefront of the biggest box office smash in history, mixing it up with the greatest villain of all time, and exchanging jabs and often outwitting Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill. Although her beauty and hairstyle instantly became the stuff of legend, it was her onscreen persona that solidified her place in history. (Notice I say “history” – to simply say “movie history” would be to understate her impact, and hence do her a disservice.) She was a firecracker, a feisty little thing who wasn’t afraid to tell Chewbacca to move it! and just walk right on by.
Will somebody get this big walking carpet out of my way?!
That line, uttered by a five foot tall young woman to an imposing seven foot tall alien, just sums it all up. No one messed with Princess Leia!
Hers was the biggest personality in Star Wars.
Her character’s portrayal instantly empowered millions of girls across the globe. She turned their eyes from constantly looking out behind them to looking ahead, and looking up. She was a pioneer, indeed. Her influence remains immeasurable, as with every generation, millions of new fans come to adore her and follow in her stride. As a guy, perhaps I cannot adequately convey her influence, but for decades I’ve watched my older sister just beam every time she was onscreen. Luke and Han were mine, but Leia was hers, and to this day, my sister borrows quotes from the Princess whenever she imparts a nugget of life wisdom upon me, or needs to give me a well needed verbal kick in the behind.
Man, my sister and I have shared a love of Star Wars our whole lives…a love for Carrie.
Right now, I have nothing but tears.
Eventually though, I imagine we’ll quote Princess Leia with both a tear and a smile.
Good grief, is this really happening?
Carrie Fisher, gone. Can’t be real. Just a little while ago, she was a young woman lighting up the screen in that iconic white dress, and I was just a small child.
Losing someone of Carrie’s fame and stature tends to illicit a bevy of reactions (have we not had enough of this, 2016?), many of which will run through the ole’ laundry list of her achievements. Rightly so. Carrie Fisher’s pioneering ways extended far beyond Princess Leia. Her myriad accomplishments included but were not limited to: actress; script writer; script doctor (oftentimes she worked on many highly popular films with little or practically no credit); author (a damn good one – i.e. Postcards From the Edge); and editor.
Yes, she threw her hat into many rings, but more importantly, she was a mother, a daughter, and a wife. She was human, with fears and flaws, joys and gifts. She was unique, irreplaceable, as all of you are. And perhaps her greatest accomplishment was to champion those with mental illness, to dare and give voice to those who for so long remained in the quiet shadows of stigma against a disease that can be as debilitating as any physical malady. She famously battled her own demons with a singular wit, and showed us that even in the face of life’s gravest challenges, a sense of humor can not only go a long way, but it can go all the way; for when one makes light of their situation, no matter how dire it may be, they humanize it, and thus quiet the beast inside.
I know this firsthand.
Carrie reminded us that sometimes our worst fears can literally be slain with a smile.
Beyond everything, Carrie Fisher was simply another person, a delightfully quirky, goodhearted human being who gifted us with a groundbreaking show of character. On the surface, beyond the well documented partying days of her youth, she may not have appeared so boisterous and forthcoming in demeanor as Princess Leia, but her actions in life would say otherwise. And isn’t it extraordinarily suiting that for me, Leia’s last onscreen utterance was:
Hope indeed, Carrie, for you, for all of us.
If I can take any solace in Carrie’s passing, it is that her own nettled spirit is truly at rest, and that she has merged with the very stars she forged, the ones glittering in the skies and gleaming in our eyes. In a year that has been unprecedented in its reminders of mortality, violence, and unrest, I pray people of all backgrounds and faiths can for a time lay down their arms and join in remembrance of all those precious lives. Please humans, please may we recognize and celebrate each other, rather than defile and destroy the infinitely precious gift of life. Someday I dream that our own world’s efforts will mirror those seen in the stories I cherish, where beings of all backgrounds band together and reach for as yet unlearned stars…
For the legions of fans, this is a tremendous blow, a sorrowful day whose implications have not fully sunk in. One of the “big three” is gone, and the youngest of the bunch at that. For Carrie’s family, it must be nothing less than devastating. Mere words seem a paltry thing, and perhaps in the near future I’ll have more to say, have more of my own memories to impart, but for now, all I can do is reflect…
So go ahead and do what ya need to do, fellow Star Wars fans. Gather your friends and pop in a blu ray, or watch that old dvd, and let loose a few laughs, a few tears, and hopefully a smile. I know I’m going back to the beginning of it all, to A New Hope, when all of this was so new, and I was so young, and the world was a more innocent place. And I’ll remember that despite an extremely difficult year, not all is dark and not all is lost, for you are reading this right now. Now we must take a deep breath, celebrate and remember all those we have lost, and embrace a little harder our family and friends.
Through tears and a smile I say to you – The force will be with you, always…
Goodbye Carrie, but not farewell, for your spirit will glint forevermore in countless millions’ eyes…
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