I had really hoped I wouldn’t have to write this, but it is my duty to report that Carrie Fisher died this morning. She had been hospitalized Friday after suffering a massive heart attack in flight to Los Angeles.
It took me about an hour to write those two sentences. Carrie Fisher was a hero to me. I loved her as Princess Leia in the Star Wars saga, but I loved her for so much more than that. She spoke truth to power. She spoke her mind. She did so even when it was embarrassing or painful. Interviewers never knew what she’d say next. She was eccentric, and utterly lovable. As a media guy and fan, I bitterly regret not having had a chance to talk with her.
Carrie had her demons — substance abuse, mental illness — but they’ve got a saying in recovery: “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” She owned those demons. Exorcised them. Put them out there on main street for all of us to see. Maybe some people were embarrassed for her, but for some of us — those of us who shared some of the same demons — it was empowering. It gave us hope.
That’s an important thing in Star Wars, right? Hope. Hope that things can get better. Hope that the good guys win. Hope that the bad guys find redemption. Hope that we can still be strong, reach deep inside, and make a difference, even when the cards are stacked against us. Carrie, as an advocate, writer, and public figure, embodied that kind of hope.
Carrie and I shared some of the same demons. In my mind, that almost makes us relatives. Carrie has been a part of my life for as long back as I can remember. The Star Wars saga was there for me when little else was. I had Princess Leia, Luke, Han, and Chewie, when Mom, Dad, Teacher, and Pastor weren’t. She was like a favorite, quirky aunt.
I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety, too. My parents were addicts, and I spent much of the first part of my adult life trying to come to terms with the trauma and abuse I suffered as a boy. I channeled a lot of my anger and sorrow into my work. I think that Carrie may have done the same thing, too.
Maybe some of you are disappointed that I didn’t talk more here about her work in Star Wars, but I think that all of us here know her for that. It goes without saying. What doesn’t get said — what should be said — is how she inspired us personally, made us laugh, and found her way into our hearts.