To everyone who has messaged, called, emailed, prayed, cried… My family and I greatly appreciate your condolences and love. Writing these words is not easy, but it feels necessary. When you find out you have lost someone you love, the world stands still. It doesn’t seem real. The magnitude of sorrow is overwhelming and swallows you like quick sand. The experience feels unbearable. But you have to bear it. And in this family, you have to bear it graciously and bravely because the entire world is watching.
I sat in a room at ABC last Friday watching my stepfather, Todd Fisher, do an interview for 20/20. I know it was one of the hardest things he has ever done in his life. Last week, Todd lost his sister, and then a day later he lost his mother. My cousin, Billie Lourd, lost her mother and her grandma. I lost my aunt and grandma. Just writing about this, so soon after such an incredibly painful loss, is beyond difficult. I don’t know how Todd found the strength to do an interview. He simply said that if he didn’t share these memories that only he could tell, then no one would, and there are millions of fans and friends who are grieving and heartbroken too.
Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds were not just our family. They were icons, beloved and adored by fans across the globe. No matter how hard it is it’s important that we try to keep beautiful memories of them alive by sharing our special memories of them with the world.
My last great memory of Aunt Carrie is from her 60th birthday party at her house in Beverly Hills. I went to her bedroom, where she was hanging out, to give her a big birthday hug and tell her the exciting news that I am pregnant. She asked where I was living in London as she was planning on putting an offer in on a house there. She was sitting on her bed with her French bulldog, Gary, by her side, holding court with a group of her close friends around her. She was in her element and seemed really happy and content.
My last great memory of Grandma Debbie is from Christmas Eve. It is our family tradition to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve and despite the overwhelming sorrow blanketing our lives like a winter frost, we still gathered to try to enjoy each others company. Grams was so strong, putting on a brave face for our family so that we could still try to celebrate the holiday at her house, even though all of our thoughts and conversations were about Carrie. She wore her pajamas, no makeup, and a hilarious red, white and sparkly Christmas hat to try to cheer us up. Grams had her sense of humor in tact and was always thinking of others to the very end. She asked us to pray that God would give Carrie “more time,” and we talked about how strong Carrie was and that we felt she really could get through this. But God obviously decided he had graced us with Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds’ presence on this earth long enough, and he wanted both of them back with him.
I still can’t believe how lucky I am to have been adopted into this amazing family. Todd married my mom, Christi, when I was six years old, saving my little brothers and me from a life of emotional abuse with our biological father who cared far more about his career as a singer than he cared about his family. Todd took us in as if we were his own, and so did Grandma Debbie. I grew up with an amazingly loving family, and not just any family – a famous family that was adored by people around the world. They showed me, with their actions, that you can be extremely successful and still make family a priority. I don’t know how I got so lucky but I am eternally grateful for everything they have done for us.
One of my favorite memories of Grandma Debbie growing up was from when I was a teenager. To the horror of Todd and my mom, I lost my virginity too young, to a boy that no parent would be proud of their daughter having sex with, at any age. Mortified, Todd called up Debbie, told her what happened (kill me – how embarrassing!), and then asked if I could go on tour with her for the summer so she could “set me straight.” What proceeded was an entire month touring around on The Debbie Reynolds Show, spending every night after the show with Grams, getting a sex lecture about how “when a boy puts his _ _ _ _ into a girls _ _ _ _ _ _ it can make a baby and could ruin your life if you are young and foolish, and not married yet, and have not gone to college or have a career.”
Imagine getting the sex talk from your grandma every single night for an entire month! Now, imagine your grandma is Debbie Reynolds. At the time, I was humiliated and wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Todd’s plan worked. I didn’t have sex again for another year, at which point I used at least two forms of birth control! (I am now married to an amazing man and pregnant for the first time at 33 years old.) At the time, this was the most embarrassing thing that could have happened to me. Looking back now, the summer I got to spend a whole month on tour with Grams is one of the best memories of my teenage years. As Todd said in his 20/20 interview, “Debbie Reynolds was the kind of person you could really look up to and try to emulate.” She was an incredibly talented and driven actress, but she was also a fantastic mom, sister, daughter, and grandma.
One of my favorite memories of Aunt Carrie growing up was my college graduation party that she threw for me. I had a small pool party at her house in Beverly Hills with about twenty close friends and family members. Carrie baked a cake for me herself and then presented it to me in front of all my friends. It was a white cake with blue frosting and sprinkles all over, and on the front, in thick blue frosting she wrote, “WHAT THE FUCK NEXT?”
It’s ironic that now after both their deaths, I find myself thinking the same thing. Where these two amazing icons that I called Grandma and Aunt use to be, there is now a giant hole in my heart that I have to try to fill with their memories and their strength. Living in London for the last four years, I didn’t get to see either of them very much. I tried to see Grams every time I flew into LA, and I rarely saw Carrie, but just knowing they were in the world somehow made it a better place. I imagine this is how many of you that adored them are feeling. You might not have spent much time with them, or any time at all, but like me, you looked up to these phenomenal women and loved their beautiful, fighting spirits and appreciated how much of themselves they shared with the world.
Debbie and Carrie will live on in Todd and Billie, and they will live on in the hearts of all of us. Every time you are brutally honest, love magnificently, stand up courageously for what you believe in, or put yourself out there in a deep and raw way – they will be living on in your brave actions. I’m scared shitless to become a mom soon, but I am so happy that we will be welcoming a new member into our family this year, especially after losing Grams and Carrie, and also after losing my mom years ago. I’m sure my child’s favorite movies will be Singing In The Rain, Star Wars and The Unsinkable Molly Brown. As Todd said in his interview, “There is no word can’t in this family.” You can do absolutely anything in this life if you work hard and believe you can. Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher are proof of this. There is no I can’t. Only I can. And I will.
On Saturday Jan, 7th, 8pm PST, HBO will premiere Bright Lights, a documentary starring Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. If you are missing them, I hope this beautifully raw and honest movie gives you comfort.