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Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher, Mortality And Us

01/01/2017 08:01 pm ET | Updated Jan 04, 2017

We’re all here on Earth for about 10 minutes. OK, not 10 actual minutes. But relative to eternity, doesn’t it seem like it’s going to feel like we were here for just minutes?

Ideally, we would like these minutes to be... well, ideal. We would like to be consistently overflowing with joy, bursting with happiness, and swimming in purpose―like joyful, happy porpoises with retirement plans. But life, as we’ve noticed, can also be hard. And that, as I continue to learn, is “a good thing” (thank you, Martha Stewart).

Recently, I was in a situation with a lot of people that I loved but hadn’t seen for a while. It was joy to see them again. We were waiting for something to begin, and we were all trying hard to be quiet, but still, we were a little covertly giggly. I remember thinking, “This reminds me of being a little girl with my many siblings gathered around me, waiting for bedtime stories to begin.” We needed to settle down so the book could be read, but we were all so excited! We were all there in our pajamas! We were all snuggled near each other like happy puppies! We had a hard time stifling laughter.

I was remembering this that day when something suddenly surprising whispered to my soul. “Someday you will feel this with all those with you in heaven, for everyone is a literal child of God. You are all brothers and sisters.”

It hit me: love in heaven does not come just from God and Jesus and people of that caliber. It comes from the multiplied love of all of us. Individual relationships (deep, pure, and fun) are possible between each of us.

When we return home to heaven*, we will also understand, at the deepest level, the struggles we all experienced during this mortal test. We will admire and respect each other tremendously for challenges endured, for sacrifices made. There will be tears of compassion and joy. There will be so much gentle laughter. We have always been siblings. The test will be over. We will rejoice with one another, and we can share that renewed love forever.

We toss around the phrase “one big human family,” but it’s a serious thing. We’re on earth preparing to return home. We’re here to walk by faith, so most pre-mortal memories of each other are not currently available. But there, we’ll remember again. The love and joy will be off the charts.

All of this leads us to Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. I never had one second of contact with either one of them in this life. Except for some mutual Irish/German/French ancestry and a propensity for suddenly breaking into songs from musicals, we have little in common. But the other night I woke up with a tiny stab of emotional pain. In the pre-dawn fuzziness it took me a few beats to recognize the distantly familiar feeling: grief. I had had a dream about Debbie and Carrie, and I woke up missing them. My eternal sisters―gone. How could they just go like that, so suddenly? Debbie, with all that talent and Girl Scout goodness (she actually earned over 42 badges), her work ethic, her Unsinkable Molly Brown optimism―no-matter what―and her reassuring smile? And Carrie, with her talent, and her raw, tear-off-the-Band-Aid emotional honesty? Her gift for wry observation? Her deep, self-deprecating wit? Her compassion and advocacy for those with challenges she had known? How could they go? We never gave them permission!

I hadn’t even known them well from a distance in this life. But I knew these things. And I sensed other good things and terrible struggles.

Debbie at least, probably felt that she had to go. The day after Carrie left, her brother Todd said, “The last thing she said this morning was that she was very, very sad about losing Carrie and that she would like to be with her again ... Fifteen minutes later she suffered a severe stroke.” Coincidence? I don’t think so either.

Debbie was Carrie’s guide through the land mines of living. She couldn’t not be Carrie’s mom. She had to go to be with Carrie. She knew Carrie needed her―had always needed her. How was Carrie going to navigate the next world without her? She had to be certain that her sometimes less-than-stable daughter could still hold her mother’s hand, even on the other side. Now they can be guardian angels together, for Carrie’s daughter.

There are things I have taken for granted in life, and Debbie and Carrie’s mortal existences were two of them, I guess. Life is fragile, isn’t it? It’s fraught with possible danger and sudden departure. It’s precarious. It’s temporary. Maybe not so ironically, it’s shot through with Star Wars: good, evil, friendship, true love, nobility, spiritual feelings, the wisdom of the aged, and the critical importance of the thing that can change everything―immediate and extended family. Battles are fought. Our demons are slain. And in the heat of battles, deeper friendships and even true love may be forged. The Force (some might call it “the Holy Ghost”) is available. We are connected to something royal, something far greater than ourselves. The path of the peaceful warrior (always, eventually) leads to peace.

Debbie and Carrie, maybe you have broader access to us mere mortals now. If so, I hope you see this. We loved you. We still love you. Looking forward to giggles and tears of compassion and joy to come. See you on the flip side.

(*One more possible layer on that cake of future joy: Latter-Day Saints believe that we knew each other and loved each other as siblings before we ever came to Earth. We lived in heaven, with our heavenly parents. There’s a Heavenly Mother to go with our Heavenly Father.)

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