Is it wrong to look to Star Wars for solace in the face of a dear friend’s real life pain? I can’t help it. I always do.
By the time this entry is published at 8am Central Time on October 13th, this friend of mine may have already lost her 20-year-old son to Ewing’s Sarcoma, an aggressive form of childhood cancer. Daniel has been battling this horrible disease for a fourth of his life, since he was 15. A large part of what this young man has known about life has been pain and suffering, and his mother, one of the strongest women I have ever encountered, even though she has been Daniel’s most stalwart defender and champion, has been rendered helpless as she’s watched him wither away. Remissions. Research studies. Experimental treatments. The waxing and waning of hope. And still, Daniel “goes home” any minute now.
I’m sad. I’m mad. I want to punch something or scream at the top of my lungs. I’m no longer a believer in the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason,” and I’m more than a little mad at God. But the fact is that everyone has a swan song on this Earth. Daniel’s has included an insidious disease, and no amount of ranting and raving on anyone’s part can change that. It’s certainly not how his family has handled it. They have more grace in the face of death in their pinky fingers than I can ever hope to have.
Death exists everywhere in the media. Sad to say, it is too-often used for dramatic effect, a plot device to extract emotion when it is fictional or a carefully worded statement made to manipulate newscasts for ratings. I often wonder why the hype is necessary. Isn’t the fact of death itself dramatic enough, a final, irreversible life event that knows no bounds, no ethnicity or social class? It is what it is, a part of life that cannot be changed. All we can really have is its impact in its aftermath.
I don’t think we Star Wars fans focus enough at times on the deaths in the saga and how they impact those around them. I remember when Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones was released, more than one comment was made along the lines of, “Oh, boo hoo, Anakin. Your mother died. Suck it up, but nooooooo…instead he’s going to become Darth Vader,” the implication being that everyone dies and that’s no reason for Anakin or anyone else to turn to the Dark Side. OK. Point taken. I get that, though not in so crass a way as this comment I recall suggests. Everyone reacts to death differently, however, and there is no, one, right or wrong way to grieve. Anakin, with neither the support he needed to get through the grieving process nor the full understanding of the Jedi, channeled his considerable energies into preventing what he knew to be Padme’s inevitable death. He reacted with fear, and that fear ultimately led to his own demise.
Obi-Wan Kenobi’s death is a more of a celebration of the Force than a somber, sad event, and Obi-Wan suffered no fear. Sure, Luke reacts with one of the classic “Nooooo’s” of Star Wars, but it is soon obvious that “Ben” truly is more powerful in the Force than he ever could have been as the flesh and blood old man he had become on Tatooine. Obi-Wan “lived” more after death than he had before it.
The reaction to Padme’s death in Episode III is traditional, grand even. A system-wide wake and funeral march befitting a beloved queen and senator struck down at too young an age, still pregnant (they thought) with a new life who passed with her. All of Naboo and beyond mourn Padme’s death, but we know that it is Anakin Skywalker who is most deeply connected and impacted. Darth Vader rises as Padme falls, so much pain behind the black mask that the Dark Lord takes his vengeance out on all of the galaxy before his love for his son brings Anakin back to the Light.
And what of that death, Anakin’s? Darth Vader’s? We know that the entire galaxy celebrates the death of the Dark Lord, and we see the Ewok party on Naboo, complete with Force ghosts, to prove it. For those of us whose fandom clings tightly to the films alone, however, the long-lasting effects of Darth Vader’s death won’t be revealed until December 18th, when Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens, bursts onto the scene. How does the GFFA fare after Darth Vader’s death? I’m anxious to find out.
When people in my own life have died, I have to admit that a part of me has looked for them in a very Star Wars-y way, hoping to “see” them as some sort of afterlife Force ghost who would be there for me when I need them most, a blue, glowing Obi-Wan to my whiny Luke-like need. I embrace the little things, the ways they have stayed with me. The way that the color orange, the favorite color of one my childhood best friend’s, finds its way into my life at times when I am thinking about her and wishing she were still alive. A Shrek 2 reference at times I most miss our family friend who died in Iraq, with whom my daughters and I saw that film. The way the saying, “This (two) shall pass,” pops into my head when I need my mother most (the “two” is intentional…my sister gets it). I treasure these things, but I still want more sometimes.
When Daniel, my friend’s son, passes, I wish for his blue-hued Force essence to remain there for his parents and brother. I know it won’t be that simple. Star Wars is, after all, fiction. They will find Daniel in the small things more often than not, but I wish for this young man’s strength and courage to bolster his family as they grieve him. I wish the power of his force to surround and penetrate his family’s pain and to lift them up when they don’t have the power to do it themselves.
Godspeed, Daniel. May the Force be with you. Always.
You can contact Pam at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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