This afternoon I went with my wife to a matinee of Rogue One. We held hands in the dark as we watched the story. We both shed tears at certain moments, because the whole film was just so good.
For me, it did more even than The Force Awakens to rebuild my trust in the franchise, and the characters. Once the plot took off (and the guy behind me stopped talking), I got lost in the sweep and the emotions. And there were emotions: lofty aspirations and actual investment in characters. It was a wonderful ride.
Throughout the film they used a subtle computer trick to recreate performances. Through the magic of CGI, Peter Cushing was able to reprise his iconic role of the evil Grand Moff Tarkin. Then, at the very end of the film, the CGI magic again allows us to catch a glimpse of a young Princess Leia.
It was as the credits were rolling that I heard it, from two rows back: "Carrie Fisher just died."
My mother was an atheist, and I grew up in a house without faith. In 1977, Star Wars was a revelation to my six-year-old eyes. It introduced to me the first palpable supernatural reality of my life: the Force.
The Force was an invisible Good, helping the good guys in the universe to do good and (for Han Solo) to do better. It was mystical and mysterious, and I believed in it immediately. No further explanation required. Luke wanted it. So did I.
I can't tell you how many times I saw the original Star Wars in the theater, but it was a lot. One thing I remember, though, is that pretty much every time we saw it, the audience burst into applause.
Sitting in the theater this afternoon, it was the same. The movie ended, and we all started to clap.
And then the news.
I am so thankful that I heard the news of Carrie Fisher's death right then, in that room. Her passing means that a very real part of my childhood is dying. But at the same time, what I saw on the screen showed me that the parts of my childhood that I love are being cherished. There are those who care for these characters and stories the way that I care for them, and that helps.
It was crazy to get the news that the actress is gone, even as I saw clear evidence that - through CGI - the character of Princess Leia can live on.
I was in a room surrounded by fellow believers. I recalled that Yoda once said that we should not fear death. My own Christian faith gives me a similar command.
Through CGI, I am confident that we will see Princess Leia again. That is a comfort. But I also live in the hope that we will see Carrie again, too. That is a mystery - and though I approach it now as a Christian, it is one I first learned to appreciate when I first fell in love with the Force.