I was sick with the flu when Carrie Fisher died. Work at my day job was incredibly busy. It was the holidays. I took in the knowledge that she was gone, changed my desktop wallpaper to a favorite image of her as Princess Leia, and then had to get on with keeping my life running, despite the pain that had settled in my heart.
As someone who fought her own illness tooth and nail, who got on with life even when it would have been easier to stop, I think Carrie would have approved.
In a little pocket of my world I was heartbroken of course, for both the loss of a favorite iconic woman character and also for the interesting, troubled, vivacious, complex person that was Carrie herself. But I had to keep going, even as thoughts of her life, her work, all ran like a subtle undercurrent through the subsequent days.
I grew up with Princess Leia in my life. The Empire Strikes Back was one of the first films I ever saw in the movies as a child. From then on, there was never a time in my life where Leia didn’t exist.
When Carrie died, so unexpectedly, so quickly, a lot of people made the point of reminding us all that Carrie was not Princess Leia. That may not literally be true, indeed, but for all intents and purposes, Carrie was Leia and Leia was Carrie. Her unique place in the world meant that both the character and the person were inseparable to many of us, and I believe that plays through in how Carrie viewed herself as Leia’s custodian.
Along with all of the other famous deaths in the last year, I was concerned when tears weren’t coming over Carrie’s loss. I felt like I had shut down in some way and protected myself from more death having lost so many heroes already. This was one of the biggest blows for me personally, but in my quest to keep my life going was I too numb to let this hurt in?
When the dust had settled at work, when my flu finally shut me down and I had to rest, my family and I sat down to watch the hour long special feature on the The Force Awakens DVD, covering how the film came to be made. I reconnected with the film, with Star Wars in general, and then, as the feature progressed, with each of the characters that I’ve known for most of my life.
And then there she was: Carrie Fisher. Princess Leia. I cried then. I missed her in that moment, grateful that we will get one more film later this year, sad that it will be the last. I found a way to mourn a little, to begin processing that she’s gone.
When people say that it’s foolish to cry over the death of someone you don’t know, tell them to fuck off. Carrie Fisher was important. She gave us the Princess Leia no one else could. She left behind a legacy of novels and memoirs. Her fingerprint is all over dozens of other film scripts. She spoke up for women in Hollywood (and outside of it) and was a powerful advocate for destigmatizing mental health issues.
If the loss of that kind of human isn’t worth crying over, I don’t know what is.
But of course now we are all left here on our own. Princess Leia isn’t going to save our asses by shoving us into the garbage shoot anymore. She was drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra and we have to go it alone.
Fortunately, she left us with a new incarnation of her alter ego to look up to, someone who takes no shit, has been through the wars, and is still fighting.
Thank you Carrie, for your words, for your courage, and for giving us the hero we need now.
Rest in Peace, General Organa.