Carrie, Debbie and the loss of celebrities

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I had not even put pen to paper between the time I was asked to write a reaction to the loss of Carrie Fisher when her mother, Debbie Reynolds, also passed. It was an odd feeling, to feel so down and out about the loss of two women I had never met. Hell, I had probably never even been within 5,000 miles of them.

And yet, I was there with every other fan. A bit of a knot in my stomach began growing, knowing that this garbage fire of a year had claimed another couple of beloved souls with its last breathes and in the most tragic of ways. 2016 claimed the lives of these two wonderful women along with Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Muhammed Ali, Alan Thicke, Gene Wilder, George Michael and too many more to count. These people have a lot in common and sometimes nothing at all. But importantly, they were game changers. They made us think differently, opened our minds to new worlds of thought, and we lost them when the world needed them most.

I remember waking up to the news of the loss of Alan Rickman a year ago. It was a cold January morning, and I was not in the mood. When I picked up my phone, I had texts, notifications, scrolls and scrolls of people asking if I had heard the news. I could feel myself on the verge of tears. Severus Snape is and will always remain my favorite fictional character. What Rickman did for his on-screen creation was more than I could ever have dreamed of. He inspired fear and laughter, madness and curiosity. He is the reason I cry every single time I watch The Deathly Hallows: Part 2. I was absolutely heartbroken.

Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds’ passings felt similar. Fisher was iconic in the role of Princess Leia, one where she was a commanding force and a beacon of female light amidst all the men of the Star Wars realm. Just as important, in her day-to-day she was a mental health advocate, hardly shying away from the daily struggles of living with bipolar disorder. Her writing, appearances, tweets, anything she touched, was a message to all those that living life in the grandest and fullest of ways was possible. She existed off-screen as she did on – as a symbol of hope.

Debbie Reynolds was proof that the apple does not fall far from the tree. She had raised her daughter to be a fierce woman, but not before being one herself. A striking female presence in Singin’ In the Rain, The Unsinkable Molly Brown and more, she worked hard for achievements and accolades while dealing with the darker side of Hollywood in verbally and physically abusive directors and co-stars. She persevered, spoke out in her memoir and raised her daughter to be just as strong. She grew and grew in our hearts into this motherly figure, especially in Disney’s Halloweentown, where, as the sweet but righteous Grandma Aggie, she reminded us to be real and true and to fight for what’s right.

There is something to be said for the loss of celebrities. In part, it feels wrong to cry for those that we’ll never know. But it makes sense to. We connect to these people through what they create – music, movies, their written words. These things are extensions of their souls. We feel what they do through their most passionate bursts of energy, and we relate. We bond over common interests and goals and we are reminded that achieving them in the very greatest of heights is, in fact, possible. They remind us that human connection can be made in more ways than one.

So, when we look back on 2016, it’s okay to be sad, devastated, scared. It’s okay to cry and feel loss. We have lost a number of bright stars who have changed this earth for the better. They have challenged the world on its view of normality, they have challenged us to listen and to open our hearts and to see the world in different lights and take action, and they challenged themselves to do what they were put on this earth to do at the very best of their abilities. To lose these people, whether we know them or not, is to lose greatly, just as it is to lose the people in our everyday lives. And we know the losses will continue. That is the truth of humanity. But we can hope that the losses will be few and far between in the years to come. And for those that we do lose, we hope we may possess the abilities to further their legacies, remember what they taught us and hope that we can do the same for those behind us.

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