Carrie Fisher.

Please don’t yell at me, Star Wars people, because I’ve now redeemed myself, but, until last week, the girl child had not seen The Force Awakens.

I know…I know. But, like I said, I’ve redeemed myself. Thanks to a fabulous snow day and some equally fabulous friends, my oversight has been corrected and she’s all caught up.

Just like her mama (and all of her mama’s friends of a certain generation), she was thrilled to see Chewie and C3PO and R2 all make their appearance…but y’all. Y’all. The look on her face when Leia walked off that ship and onto the ground…. It was priceless.

Eyes wide. Mouth dropped open, until a huge grin broke and she stage-whispered, “Princess Leia!”

And I said, quietly, “No baby. That’s General Leia Organa.” She looked at me kinda funny, and I smiled, assured her I’d explain later, and told her to keep watching.

Later that night, talking about how much we’d enjoyed the day, she asked what I’d meant about calling Leia “General,” and as we talked, I found myself really reflecting the woman who brought Leia to life. Carrie Fisher had died a week earlier, and I’ll admit, I teared up at the news. And not just because of Leia. I’ve been in awe of Ms. Fisher for years now, as she’s waged her own personal campaign about the way we judge those who struggle with mental illness. About how the industry she’d given her life to tends to treat women after they’ve gone from cover girl-ready, lithe, 20-somethings to…well, not so much. About how messy and difficult and awful life can be, but how possible it is to find strength and beauty in the midst of it all.

And so I told my sweet girl something along these lines: That yes, Leia had been a princess. And a mighty, fierce one at that. A warrior. Strong and courageous and determined. (This is where I could digress about how we’ve made the title “Princess” a negative thing when it does not need to be, but I’ll save that for another time….) I talked about how she was one of the first “girl power” role models out there, right alongside Wonder Woman, when I was a kid, and how awesome I thought she was. I talked about how she’d become a General, in charge of the very resistance that had raised her, that had given her a family and a way of being. I said she was amazing, and that I was glad my girl had gotten to know the character, and said she’d see her again in other Star Wars movies.

Curly Girl took all this in. Smiled. And I was reminded again how important imagination is. How crucial stories are. How much it matters that we have in our lives characters that help us dream and grow and become.

In my estimation, Carrie Fisher’s brokenness made her bold. Brassy. Unafraid of what others might think of or say about her. It made her more of who she was capable of being. And this was obvious in the lines on her face, the care in her voice, the deep heartache in her eyes as General Organa asks her beloved Han to please, go and find their son and bring him home.

This is what I want for my daughter–to be able to see that this life we’ve been given…it is not perfect. And it’s full of so much that terrifies and breaks us. And often we fall apart, sometimes by our own awful choices, sometimes by no fault at all.

But if we’re lucky…very, very lucky…we’ve got folks who can help put us back together again. Who can be with us while we pick up the pieces of what’s shattered and simply say, “I’m with you. And this will be okay.” And then stay with us until we emerge on the other side, not the way we once were, but…somehow…okay. And capable of funneling all the heartache and messiness into a way of being that seeks to make the world a little less scary and a little more hopeful.

At the end of The Force Awakens (spoiler alert if you somehow have not seen it…), a heartbroken Rey walks off her own ship, and into General Organa’s arms, the two of them clinging to one another in their grief over Han. And you know, in that moment, that just as has happened before, nothing will ever be the same for either of them again. Everything has changed. And they stare in to each other’s eyes. And they lift their chins. And they decide (in my imagination anyway), “We will get through this. We will not let this destroy us.”

Carrie Fisher was much more than Leia. But the gift she gave us in bringing Leia to life is a pretty great thing. I’m grateful to her for that. And for the ways she sought, on screen and off, to resist that which would destroy and seek life on the other side.




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