Loss. Grief. They come in all shapes and sizes. All kinds. We might lose a pet, a job, a home, a friend, a loved one. Each loss brings with it a certain amount of sadness and grief – and if one chooses to be a part of the human race, there is absolutely no escape from either. A loss does not necessarily have to mean that someone is lost forever, of course. It’s a loss all the same, and the grief can cut just as deeply.
When I think of Star Wars and how characters faced their losses, I first think of Luke and Leia. They were the first characters to face loss on a very personal level. First Luke, when he returned to the Lars homestead to find the only family he had ever known slaughtered by the cold, calculating Imperial forces, and then Leia, when she watched in horror as her parents and home world were brutally obliterated from the galaxy. Both brother and sister lost friends and Luke lost his two mentors. Luke even mourned the passing of Vader [but only when he returned to his true self]. In the Prequels, Obi-Wan was heart-broken when Qui-Gon Jinn is cut down, and then again when he lost his “brother”. Anakin suffered loss as well, and it was even the fear of loss that pushed him over the edge to join the Sith. Padmé, too, suffered loss as she watched her beloved turn into someone – something – she could not recognize. That loss eventually led to her giving up her will to live.
But like I said – not all losses are quite so final. I’m learning that all too well right now.
My youngest daughter Caitlin has been gone for a full three weeks now. She has moved to Japan – where she will live for the foreseeable future – to teach English to youngsters. This is quite the adventure on which she has embarked, an adventure about which I am genuinely excited for her, and one I completely support. But this does not negate the fact that I am dealing with the grief of her absence – in a very big way. I actually fooled myself into thinking Caitlin’s move would be fairly easy to deal with. After all, she had been away at college for the last four years. You’d think I would be prepared for Caitlin leaving the nest once and for all. Goodness, I’ve gone through this once before. Her older sister Erin remained in Los Angeles after graduation. With a history of dealing with long separations from my beloved girls, I really thought I’d have no trouble dealing with Caitlin being 6,223 miles away. I never expected it to be easy to say good-bye. That, I knew would be incredibly hard. However, I expected to be on more solid footing once my husband and I returned home from the hour-plus drive from O’Hare. I thought the 80-minute journey would be ample time to shed a few silent tears, and then I’d buck up. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening!
I sit here, three weeks later, and it still hurts today as much as it did that sunny Saturday morning when Tom and I clutched Caitlin close … not wanting to let her go … but knowing all the while that was exactly what we had to do. As I write, I am listening to the cardinals, robins and sparrows twittering, and I am reminded that every bird has to leave the nest. I did. I cannot deny either of my younglings – who truly are younglings no longer – the same adventure to pave their own roads. I just wish I could stop crying. Oh, I’m not breaking down every minute of every day. Goodness, there have been days here and there when I don’t shed a single tear – although I think about Caitlin all the time, and selfishly wish she was back home [as I do Erin]. There are some days, like today, when I’ll break down in body-shaking sobs. That is so unlike me … yet I can’t help it. I miss my bambina.
I know each of us has experienced loss [one can’t live at least a couple of decades and escape that fate], and mine is no more significant than anyone else’s. It’s just acute right now. I know it will get better. Luke had the resolve to push forward after finding his aunt and uncle dead. Leia had the resolve to do what had to be done after witnessing Alderaan’s erasure from the star system. Obi-Wan had the resolve to fulfill his pledge to his dying friend and mentor. I, too, have had to deal with the more final losses that have occurred over the years, and while they were very difficult to get through at first, dealing with them became much more manageable. I know Caitlin leaving home to settle so very far away will not hurt this much – eventually. The ache will remain, but I will assuage that ache with the knowledge that she is doing what she wants to do. In her shoes, I’d want to do the same thing. 🙂
Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen know they have lost Luke [in much the same way Tom and I have “lost” Caitlin]. There comes a time in each person’s life when one must strike out on one’s own. “(Luke) can’t stay here forever,” an understanding Beru said to her over-protective husband. “(He’s) just not a farmer. He has too much of his father in him.” According to Tom, Caitlin has a lot of me in her. “She’s a lot like you,” he said to me not too long ago. That was a bit of a revelation. Sometimes it takes someone “on the outside” to see the obvious.
Later in “A New Hope,” the same theme was reiterated when a wise-beyond-her-years Leia said to a forlorn and disappointed Luke, “(Han has) to follow his own path. No one can choose it for him.” Isn’t that the truth! 😉
And then there’s Shmi. Much too soon, she had to let go of her sweet, young son. An exuberant Anakin nearly bounces into his home, Qui-Gon Jinn in tow, after the Jedi Master collected his pod race winnings from Watto. Anakin announces that he has been freed, and that Qui-Gon will take him to Coruscant to train to be a Jedi. Anakin is so caught up in the excitement of this news that he forgets – for a moment – that his mother was not mentioned in the transaction. Soon, realization dawns on him. Sadly, Qui-Gon had to inform his new charge that Shmi’s freedom was not part of the bargain. Should Anakin go … or should he stay? Is this future that has been laid out before him really a change he wants? “You can’t stop change any more than you can stop the suns from setting,” Shmi points out. She is so right. Change is inevitable. It is part of life. Sometimes it brings joy and elation. Sometimes it brings pain. A child’s graduation from high school and/or college brings a bit of both. I am so proud of what Caitlin has accomplished, and so very happy that she has reached this stage in her life, that she is able and willing to face the path before her … and yet, there is pain, too. I can’t help but feel sadness at the same time I’m feeling joy.
That’s really what it boils down to, right? Accepting the bad with the good? The real issue is – on what will I [or anyone in a similar situation] concentrate? It’s time, now, to buck up and resolve to carry on. This really has been a wonderful exercise in exorcizing the feelings I’ve been experiencing. Oh, I’m sure there will be a few times in the coming days when I’ll sense my eyes watering. And I certainly won’t stop missing Caitlin. It warms my heart, however, to know she’s following her own dreams, enjoying quite the adventure, forging her own path. What more can a parent ask for one’s child?
Star Wars – and you – have come through once again. Thank you so much for this opportunity to work through this. It really has helped.
One hundred twenty-five days and counting…
Until next time, MTFBWY 🙂
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