The cruelest thing about the English language is the lack of words for a mother who loses a child. If your spouse dies, they are a widow/widower. If a parent dies, the child has become an orphan. But there isn’t a word for a parent who loses their child. It shouldn’t happen, yes, but the fact of the matter is that it does.
As a child, my world was enhanced by the Technicolor gleams of the musicals. And none shone brighter than the 1952 marvel of Singin’ in the Rain written, directed, produced, choreographed, and starred by Gene Kelly. It was a movie about the transition between silent film and the talkies and how the advent of sound and dialogue became the scare of Tinseltown. Alongside Kelly, it starred Jean Hagen, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, and the most beautiful apple-pie American Girl, Mary Francis Reynolds. The 19-year-old beauty queen sang and tap danced her way to cinematic iconography with the opening tune and a rousing Good Morning. The celestial beauty’s name was forever changed: Debbie. Debbie Reynolds and from the MGM soundstage was born the Unsinkable Molly Brown! Now That’s Entertainment.
Years later, when I entered high school, I discovered Carrie Fisher and the wonder of Princess Leia. She was strong, defiant, and led a rebel army to defeat the fascist leaders that enslaved, imprisoned, and murdered her people. She was one with the Force— the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer but without the vampires. She slew the oligarchy with a blast at a time. She was the most beautiful woman in the galaxy. Big chocolate brown eyes with gorgeous hair woven in buns and a legendary white dress. Carrie’s Leia was out of this world.
As I harbored pain and accolades during my adolescence, I discovered Carrie was manic-depressive. So was I. I discovered she had severe anxiety. So did I. But I also discovered she channeled her pain and frustrations into writing. And my love for writing was born because of it. If it weren’t for Carrie Fisher, I may never know what I was actually good at. I could be a writer and actress. Write and perform my own one-woman shows? I owe my entire catalog to the majestic genius of the prodigious Carrie.
I can sing my way to anything like her equally genius Debbie too.
My heart sinks immeasurably. I have just begun my deep mourning yesterday and I spent two hours in a car and on location sobbing for the loss of these two gems once I found out about the death of Debbie this evening. I selfishly believed I was about to meet Carrie and tell her she was my everything. I could have gotten a glimpse of Debbie if I was lucky but I will never be. My heart burns with such sadness for life should never be this cruel. Debbie was a valiant woman who survived such humiliation from her husband who left her for another woman. She survived two husbands who left her bankrupt. She survived her daughter’s drug addiction and mental breakdown. She survived her own failing health until the unexpected death of her soul mate, Carrie herself, hit her like an iceberg. The Unsinkable Molly Brown sank.
In some ways, Debbie’s last days (a Greek tragedy if ever written) was the testament to her powerful love that she had for her daughter. She couldn’t live without her. As her son Todd Fisher reports, Debbie’s last words fifteen minutes before she suffered a stroke this afternoon were, “I miss her so much, I want to be with Carrie.” It’s as if Carrie’s spirit never left her mother’s site. She surveilled the scene and recognized her ailing mother needs to be with her and so with that, the daughter cupped her mother’s face. With her lightsaber, she made her precious mother an umbrella. The mother and daughter sang and skipped in the rain up to the pearly gates.
Debbie’s heart belonged to Carrie and Carrie was the force that wield life into her mother. I can’t think of another way to write this but the love of a mother to her daughter is a bond that can never be broken. May the force be with them, forever as the Queen and her Princess reign supreme.