All I did was open up my news app on my phone. A simple task, one I do several times a day, to read about the latest stupid thing our future president had done and to make sure we're not at war with anyone. This time, however, the headline was about Carrie Fisher, Princess Leia, dying. She was only sixty, fer cryin' out loud--nine years older than me.
I saw Star Wars in the theater when it was first released. I loved Princess Leia. Loved her. Here was a woman who was supposed to be the princess in the fairy tale, imprisoned by an evil creature. But she wasn't a helpless damsel in distress, waiting to be rescued. Instead, Princess Leia made a snarky comment about Luke being too short for a storm trooper. She snarled insults at Han Solo, rolled her eyes at Chewbacca, grabbed a blaster, and started firing. That certainly got my attention as a teenager. Here was a woman who had no trouble speaking up for herself, at a time when women were fighting for the same thing. Princess Leia had no problem with fighting for what she believed in, despite her expected upbringing as a stereotypical pampered and delicate member of royalty. Here was a female character who didn't have any of the special help her brother Luke had in the form of Obi-Wan, Yoda, and The Force. Yet Leia still managed to outsmart the bad guys and get the Death Star plans to the Rebels. Down to earth, practical, and smart, Princess Leia was a problem solver, and a great leader.
And Carrie Fisher the real life person didn't hold her punches either. She was an excellent actress and a talented writer, penning several books over the years. She was a great advocate for the mentally ill, giving them a voice at a time when depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder were words hidden away from the public eye. I never met Ms. Fisher, but you just knew that if you did happen to run into her, she would be kind. She would be gracious, unless you brought up that stupid metal bikini. Which was a pretty silly outfit for a sandy planet, honestly. I could completely understand why Fisher wouldn't want to talk about that.
Carrie Fisher was an icon. She represented a woman who had to fight her own battles, against stereotyping, against misogyny, and especially against her own demons of mental illness. She truly did things her way, and I admire that. I wanted to be that. I admired Princess Leia for her gumption, and I admired Carrie Fisher for the very same thing. She will be missed. I'd like to think of her spirit becoming one with the Force that watches over us all, but I'm still going to be sad about it.
I seem to be getting to the age where all of the actors, musicians, and authors I grew up with are all dying. I understand that people die, but it just seems there's been so many of them in 2016. David Bowie. Alan Rickman. John Glenn. Prince. Harper Lee. Gene Wilder. George Michael. Muhammad Ali. Merle Haggard. People I never met, but who touched my heart, fired my imagination, and set my mind free, if only for a little while. As long as they were around, I still had some happy pieces of my youth to return to. Every time I watched Young Frankenstein, with Gene Wilder, was joyful. Merle Haggard's Silver Wings took me back to my college years, two stepping around a dance floor. Those memories, once shiny, will now be tinged with sadness. I know that's the way of the world, but I don't have to like it. It's like that poem--I rage, at the dying of the light, not just for myself, but for the world. It sucks to see so many lights flickering out; the world seems diminished by their passing.