(approximate read time: 8 minutes)
Time of Death: 8:55am, December 27th, 2016.
Carrie Fisher is dead.
What does that even mean.
I, for one, cannot tell you what it means. I haven’t the faintest clue. All I have is how it makes me feel…
Though not privy to be born in that blessed 70s generation, the canals through which Star Wars was birthed (1977 specifically), the impact it had on my life was by no means lessened. I remember the day, I always remember the day, as if it were yesterday. The clearest of recollections, the most sacred of memories. This was back in the old days where my dad still cleaned pools for a living and my mom worked overnight as a hotel receptionist. Back before anybody knew anything about a facebook, or a twitter, or an instagram, or an ipad. Back when “outside” was not some alien force, but rather the necessary right of passage into pubescence and (provided one survived the hormonal uprising against one’s parents) into adulthood.
Back when the four were just two. Me and my kid brother.
I was 7.
For reasons unknown to me at the time, my father had taken it upon himself to usher both my brother and I to the fossilized ancestor of Netflix, Hulu and their myriad kinfolk of streaming services… Dad took us to Blockbuster. It wasn’t family movie night, we hadn’t performed some outstanding kid feat that required positive reinforcement- nothing like that. By all accounts it was a regular day. Minus this quantum singularity, this tear in the familial space time continuum, where my dad was rewarding us without cause.
Father wasn’t prone to unnecessary kindness, you see. He wasn’t, per se, what one would categorically define as cruel, BUT- he also wasn’t the sort of person you might warmly describe with honey drizzled adjuncts such as “empathic” or “compassionate” either. Generosity was certainly not his key trait. And yet something much deeper than the abyss of his psycho-emotional limitations compelled him that day. Driven along by forces he was both unaware of and did not understand, we found ourselves happily at Blockbuster.
And that’s when things grew incredibly bizarre.
I was a young geek. Couldn’t describe what that meant to me yet. Dad, an ambitious black man from Queens who suffered the necessary survival sickness of myopathy, was most assuredly NOT a geek. And not that in tune with us either. So you can imagine my surprise when he interrupts our wandering to draw our attention to a gold and black box with three videos inside. I tentatively read the two words that would change the rest of my life.
Trilogy. Special Edition. Not only did he say he thinks we’d like it, but he also said that he was going to BUY it! What? Eureka! Egad! Excelsior! I didn’t know what a Star Wars was, but I had yet to grow out of that instinctive faith a child has in their father. He believed in it and so I did too. It wasn’t until years later that I found out he’d never even seen Star Wars before, when he purchased it for us. How could he have known? It’s simple. He couldn’t have. Something deeper was at play here. Something far deeper and more powerful than the imperfections of one man’s humanity.
I was 7. It was a Friday. Carrie died on a Tuesday.
It was just the three of us that fateful night. Dad, my little brother, and I. They were each on a couch and I was sitting on pillows on the floor. My father popped the first one in… and in an explosion of mythological ecstasy, I was immediately transported far, far away. The story, the effects, the music, the characters… everything about Star Wars: A New Hope transfixed me in a way that nothing ever had, and nothing really ever has since. That night was one of the chief delights of my entire life. That night was where I met Carrie Fisher for the very first time.
In a galactic struggle filled with super powered old guys, destiny filled young guys, resourceful skeptics, laser swords, and impossibly powerful bad guys, here was this- this girl. No, this WOMAN. Of intensely high value. Quick witted, dedicated to righteousness, loyal to her people, fearless in her leadership despite her obvious youth… Princess freakin Leia! Luke and Vader always intrigued me the most, but the Princess who could hold her own was always just as important in her periphery position to my central interests.
It finally trailed off and I was awestruck. It was a lot to take in… and there were still two more movies!! I looked cautiously over. Dad was asleep. Little brother was nodding off, in and out. Technically I should go to sleep, but… no. Decision made. If dad woke up and turned it off, so be it. But I had to try. So I crept towards the television and ejected the tape. Out came A New Hope; in went Empire Strikes Back.
Holy smokes. Philosophy and mythology coming together in an action packed political thriller revolving around family and relationships and faith? You mean you could ACTUALLY tell stories like that?? What?? Something began to tick in the back of my mind…
Empire was over. I didn’t even wait. I took it out, and slipped in Return of the Jedi. I was getting a little sleepy, but my excitement was winning. I needed to see how this concluded. I rode the pulsing rail car of the saga’s conclusion with baited breath and complete surrender in the fullness of my mental, emotional, and spiritual interest. The very quintessence of captivated. And then…
It was done.
Nineteen years later... she is done.
I was finishing up a graphic novel, when my buddy texted me the news. I immediately googled just her name… hoping, somehow, that he had gotten it wrong… but knowing he never would have said it to me if he had…
And sure enough… on every news site and twitter feed… Carrie Fisher was announced as dead. She’d had a heart attack on Friday, but was stable by Sunday- Christmas. And two days later… she was gone.
I cried some more.
I texted my sister and a close friend.
I cried again.
And then, the tears just sort of… stopped, in that peculiar way of theirs. Where the sadness is still present and the healing yet to commence, but the faucets have been effectively shut off. And deep inside me was a swelling feeling…
You see, this isn’t really like any other death that I’ve ever experienced. This isn’t the devastating loss of a dearly beloved friend, or the crude tearing away of a family member. This isn’t the hostile assassination of skin tone variant xenophobia, or even the expected passing of the elderly. All sad in their own way, but similar too. Each of those has element of personal connection to it. Of intimacy. But I didn’t know her. I never got to meet her. And I wasn’t even necessarily crying because I’d never get the chance.
No this was something far different.
I mentioned earlier that Star Wars was a profound experience for me, which shaped me in every possible way, but I never really quite illumined how.
My passion for story originates with Star Wars. I have a fierce dedication and insistence upon stories being GOOD and then being told WELL and for them to be ABOUT SOMETHING. Through Star Wars, I got the revelation that all life- every life- is just a series of stories happening. It’s easy to be graceless, when you think you’re the only one living a story… but when you pause to think that every person you pass- every single one- is as firmly engrossed in the extremities of their story as you are in yours? It changes things. How you write, how you speak, how you try to think, how you understand, how you create, how you try to reach people. And if we’re going to be completely honest…
Star Wars makes Jesus make SO much sense.
I’ll save that one for another time though.
I’ve had the advantage of being ahead of the curve a lot in life as far as perspective, understanding, and foresight (even though I didn’t necessarily match it with the best actions), but that all stemmed from Star Wars. From George Lucas’ brilliant mind and his stellar team. And as I lanced out into various forums of Geekdom and really developed this peculiar gem inside of me, it all traces -irrevocably – back to Star Wars.
So you see?
I still carry my gem… but one of the facets has been scrubbed off. Torn from existence. She was the Princess. The hero alongside the heroes. The hero who gave the awards and the medals. The hero who thought several steps ahead and would be cowed by NO ONE. The first lady hero my sisters ever saw. The hero who had this incredible gift of the Force within her and never needed to be a Jedi to accomplish Jedi feats. In her real life, Carrie battled with being bi-polar. And OWNED it. From struggles with drugs, to lucid affairs, to turning her life around, to an incredible career laughing at her weaknesses and using that joy to empower others… she was a Princess both on and offscreen.
Picture the most beautiful diamond you can. Not too many faces. It may not even be a diamond. It’s just incredibly luminous, and reflects radiant rainbows in even the dimmest of lights. Hold it high in the darkness of your mind. Look at it carefully. Now… watch… one of those faces winks out. You rotate it over and over, looking for a dark spot, but you can’t find one. Your gem is still perfect, but- there’s just a little less light. One of the faces is missing.
Gone like it never existed.
Nobody's heroes are exempt from death.
I still feel cold. And I don’t know if it’ll ever truly go away. But out of that frigid shard of my heart, a brand new flower is growing. It’s a flower without name or botanical allegiance or history. It grows without labels or categorical qualities. It just grows. Strong and rebellious.
This flower is my reminder.
That we would never have experienced the wonder that was Carrie Fisher had she not done her work. Had she not fought her losing qualities and bent them around into a forceful quality of life. Had she not labored to enjoy her life, despite the labor it demanded. Had she not done the work.
The flower is my reminder.
That the work is the only thing that matters.
Without the work, whatever it is, this vapor of human life passes quickly in the shifting temperaments of time without even a distinguishing scent to signify that we’d been here. Nothing changes without the work. Nothing matures without the work. Nobody can be touched or healed or inspired without the work.
The work is the only thing that matters.
You’ve been given a script. You can stick to it, modify it, or run from it… but no matter what you choose to do with or on your stage, one thing is abundantly clear…
Your end scene WILL come.
And after that, all that will be left of you is your work.
Time of Death: 8:55am, December 27th, 2016.
Joshua Evans is a prolific writer and sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast who believes story is central to everything and that mythology can change the world. He currently hosts two youtube shows- The Truth About Superheroes and Comic of the Week, as well as runs a short story blogsite on medium as The Story Junkie. If you would like to further be a part of his cosmic psyche, you can join him on Twitter and Instagram or simply subscribe to this blog… and remember- sharing is caring! Cheers!