When I look back on 2016 I’m going to have extremely mixed feelings about it.
Most of my blog posts so far have been about personal change and how I’ve been trying to turn my life around – but tonight it’s not.
I never saw Star Wars at the cinema. When it came out my family was living in Orkney. I read about the exploits of what came to be beloved heroes in the occasional comic that my mom bought me from the local newsagent – or that I inherited from friends.
One had a big hole in the cover where my friend had cut out the Millennium Falcon to stick on his wall – but inside the adventures of Princess Leia were untouched. They were different from the film and were flights of fancy being imagined by a Marvel Comics creative team, where she was being taught how to shoot a blaster as a young girl.
Oddly – this is the first real memory I have of what eventually became my favourite film franchise. It wasn’t until years later I actually read the book and discovered what really happened in the 1977 classic.
When I finally came to see a Star Wars film I was in Rhyl, on holiday at my Aunt and Uncle’s house. It was the Empire Strikes back and at the time was probably (for a very young boy) the absolute pinnacle of my cinema going history.
By that time I was familiar with Princess Leia and was amazed at how different she looked without the side buns in her hair. She was jaw-droppingly beautiful with her french plaits – and also a strong, feisty presence that was unusually independent.
Sure – she was rescued rather stereotypically by the male leads in Star Wars, but by the time of Return of the Jedi rolled around she was returning the favour, and rescuing Han whilst strangling Jabba to death (albeit in an alluring gold bikini) instead.
When I heard this evening that Carrie Fisher had died I genuinely had a lump in my throat.
Admittedly I knew little about her as a person. From what I did see of her personal life she often seemed troubled and struggling. I’m not grieving the loss of a close friend that I knew personally – I’m mourning the loss of a media icon, which (as I reflect upon why I feel the way I do) I think is a little odd.
However, for better or worse thanks to film, music and television we let certain famous people into our hearts and lives. Just as if we were seated next to a friend on the sofa we begin (at least in a small way) to care about what happens to them. Often they sing to us when we’re happy and sad, or take us to places of imaginative fantasy that allow us to escape our day to day lives temporarily.
I think that Carrie Fisher’s departure also represents the end of a significant era in my childhood, and I think it’s that which makes me feel so sad. Maybe I feel all of a sudden a little older without her around.
But it’s also reminding me of all the others that seem to have (mostly without any warning) suddenly passed this year.
As I look at the lists online of people that left us in 2016 I can’t help thinking about the happiness that she and they managed to bring to myself and others for brief moments – often despite their own profound fragility.
Whatever demons they faced in real life, the joy that they brought to others has to be a worthwhile legacy, and hopefully their work will still continue to provide the same flights of fancy for generations to come.
In a sense – despite their passing they’re all ‘immortal’ in a way that most of us will never be.
Whilst Carrie (for me at least) is leaving one of the biggest sudden gaps, there are many others that won’t be filled any time soon, and as I think about her as the year draws to a close I can’t help but pay tribute to some of the many more bright lights left behind in the last twelve months as well.
My thoughts are with her family, and the families of everyone missing someone thats no-longer with us as the year draws to a close.
Look after the ones you love internet. We’re only here for a moment.