As has been widely covered, 2016 was a sucktacular year for us children of the 70s and 80s. Bowie, Prince, George Michael…while I was not a rabid fan of their music, I deeply remember their cultural significance. Anyone else remember when Prince decided to change his name to a symbol? Or when George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” was about to air on MTV? The whole world stopped spinning on its axis for a music video that is now regularly out-sexed by ads for Carl’s Jr.
But the latest celebrity passing hit me the hardest. Carrie Fisher. Princess Leia. Dead at f**ing 60 of a heart attack! I’m only 13 years away and I’ve already met the cardiac arrest monster, so this news terrifies me. But of all the celebrity deaths in 2016, Carrie Fisher’s was the one that hit me the hardest. I was truly, legitimately, inexplicably (for an enneagram 5) sad. And it didn’t require too much internal processing to figure out why: as a total Star Wars nerd from the age of 7, Carrie Fisher is part of the legacy I’ve passed on to my children.
Both of my kids swung light sabers before they rode bikes. A recent homespun family scavenger hunt included finding nine wookiees (to which my wife impugned “do we even have nine wookiees?” (yes, my dear, we do). I routinely used Anakin’s struggle against the dark side as a teaching moment for my son. And he got it, more than he did any Sunday School lesson. Like some outer space crazy uncle, Star Wars has been a part of our family story longer than our family has existed.
And here’s where it really hurts: if part of my legacy is gone, the most valuable part of me is gone.
But now a piece of it is gone. Yes, Kenny Baker (who play R2D2) and Erik Bauersfeld (who voiced Admiral Ackbar) also passed away this year. But, dammit, Princess Leia is still part of our family story! With our son now well into high school, family movies are no longer a “thing” in which he eagerly participates (unless he’s bored and has nothing else to do). There is a good chance that The Force Awakens was the last Star Wars movie we will see as a family, and Carrie Fisher was in it! She is as relevant to them as she was in her 1977 performance in the original release.
And here’s where it really hurts: if part of my legacy is gone, the most valuable part of me is gone. And it reminds me that my own story ends. And it reminds me that the impact of my story ends and fades. My narrative comes to a close, and while it may echo for a generation or two, in time it will have no more impact on future Whitneys than my great-great-grandfather had on me (I don’t even remember his name).
So if there is a silver lining to the profound sense of loss many of us feel in 2016, let it be to remind us that we, too, will be someone’s profound sense of loss, and let’s make every moment between now and then count.