A Thirty-Year Gift

Star Wars grabbed hold of me at an early age.

I had the action figures in the Darth Vader carrying case, including a Han Solo whose hand went into the pencil sharpener, courtesy of my sister. I knew the movie dialogue, read the comic books, and reinvented the world around me in terms of a galaxy far, far away. Swings became X-wing fighters, blizzards turned the backyard into the ice world of Hoth, and even “A Christmas Carol” was seemingly improved when my best friend and I put Han in the role of Scrooge.

Obsessed? Maybe a little. But we had a lot of company. The story was thrilling and the characters were so much fun to be with. The wide-eyed Luke. The wise-cracking Han. And of course, the gutsy and determined Princess Leia.

And now the Princess has left the stage.

There’s been a lot written about Carrie Fisher since she died at 60 from a heart attack. She had that kind of life. People have talked about how they drew inspiration from her far-from-helpless Leia, or hope from her open acknowledgement of mental illness. They’ve talked about her rough-edged humor, her career as a Hollywood script doctor, even her dog.

The one thing I haven’t seen so much on is how close we came to losing so much of it.

It happened in 1985. After filming a role in Hannah and her Sisters, Fisher almost died from a drug overdose. She was rushed to a hospital in time and it afterward became a turning point for her life and career, beginning with “Postcards From the Edge” and going on to so much more.

A slightly slower ambulance might have meant a headline of “Carrie Fisher Dead at 29.”

That makes one pause.

Yes, age 60 is too soon to leave the world these days. But given what could have happened, we should count ourselves lucky. Time is a precious gift, and the world got 30 more years with her that it might not have had – years in which so many of us really got to know her, and in which she really got to know herself.

It doesn’t take celebrity to appreciate that.

None of us are promised one more day. When we leave a friend, it might be the last time. When we put off a dream, there might not be a later chance. Life can be an amazing story, but there’s no theme music to warn you when the credits are about to roll.

We avoid thinking about it most of the time. Life is busy and the implications are uncomfortable. A cartoon I saw once on a college door read something like “Bob lived every day as though it were his last” – and naturally, what it showed was Bob running around, screaming “I’m gonna die! Im gonna die!”

But turning away doesn’t make it less real.

It shouldn’t make us live in dread. But it should make us live.

Be aware of the world instead of sleepwalking through it. Make the choices, take the action, do the things that will make you and it better. Reach for people and lift each other up.

When I leave the house, my last words to Heather and Missy are almost always “love you” – just in case. It’s a small thing, but a big meaning.

None of us get guarantees. Not even gutsy space princesses. But what we do with what we get can mean the galaxy to someone.

And that kind of bond is a powerful Force indeed.

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