When STAR WARS Hits Close to the Heart

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[WARNING: The following contains SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens]

 

Over the holidays, my husband and I attended a Christmas party with some friends, and the topic of conversation — for whatever reason — went dark.  We began to discuss a couple of local boys, teenagers who recently received life sentences for kidnapping and raping a 10-year-old girl.  The boys claimed to have been high, but nonetheless committed this horrible crime.  Fortunately, the topic moved on to other things, lighter things like the upcoming church Christmas pageant, last minute shopping and of course, the most important thing: who had tickets to Star Wars.

But my mind continued to go back to those boys, and I also remembered coming across a December 14th article about the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings.  Since I’m a school teacher, those dates seem to resonate with me. Against my better judgment, I opened the story and read about Adam Lanza, the young person who shot and killed 20 schoolchildren and 6 adults in Sandy Hook after killing his own mother. Of course, there were other links that led to remember other people, other evil people.

In the midst of a holiday party, I couldn’t let this go.  I knew what was bothering me. Besides being a school teacher, I’m also the mother of three young sons, and I began to feel remorse for their parents.  Their poor parents. Most importantly, their mothers.

As the party wore on, I managed to put these thoughts aside and enjoy myself. The weekend ended well.  The kid in my husband couldn’t let opening weekend pass without being a “part of the numbers”.  He surprised me with tickets to the last Sunday evening show of Star Wars.  We tucked our kids in (who’d already seen it with friends), and sneaked out to have our Star Wars fun and to be a part of the biggest party of the weekend.

Of course, it was wonderful. As a whole it was everything I hoped it would be. But when we found out who Ren is, my mind quickly went to Adam Lanza and Timothy McVeigh, and countless others.  When Leia pleads for Han to bring her son back to her, she doesn’t just want him physically back.  I felt sorry for her.  The look on Han’s face when he holds her is so sad, because he knows Ren isn’t coming back. But for Leia, because he loves her so much, he’ll try.  You could even say that Han knew he would probably die trying.

When it happens, it’s devastating.  My husband clinched my hand so tightly I thought it would break off. His hero was dying on screen at the hands of his own son.  You’re given a glimmer of hope, and because my husband and I are human and parents, we fell for it; we thought Ren would go with his father, but he doesn’t.  My husband whispered to me, “It’s worse that having your son JUST die.”

Now before you begin to think ill of my husband — or me for that matter — let me explain my husband’s words and why they hit me so hard.

When your child dies, it’s the most horrible thing that can happen to someone.  I’ve been told this by friends and family who have lost children, either in infancy or, in the case of my nephew, childhood.

But I’ve come to realize that it isn’t.  It isn’t the most horrible thing that can happen to someone.  Whatever your spiritual beliefs may be, most faiths have a version of the afterlife.  That “good” and that “light” force makes us believe that we will see them again, that while they’re dead to this world, they have some form of everlasting life. My nephew was a good boy and had a kind heart. As a Christian, I have the hope of seeing him again.

Now, I don’t presume to know or understand what if feels like to lose a child.  My beliefs tell me that death is not the end. My life is not over, just my life on earth will be over.  It is inevitable; like me, my children are going to die.  All three of them will die. If I’m one of the lucky ones, it will happen after my own death.  It’s the natural course; your death should precede your children’s death.  If all goes according to plan, your children join you in Heaven to share an eternity together with God.  When a child is called before the parents, it’s a horrible, confusing thing to deal with and I hoped I’m blessed to never have to go through that, but when you die (hopefully you stuck to the plan) you’ll join your child in Heaven and enjoy eternal bliss. So in the grand scheme, a child’s death is not the most horrible thing that can happen to someone.

While I watching Star Wars, I was impressed with how J.J. Abrams engaged the 1977 generation of Star Wars fans.  I truly felt he made this movie for us.  George Lucas made the prequels for himself.  Abrams made this for the fans. Han and Leia are older, and I loved seeing them on screen again, still in love.

Finding out they were apart was difficult to watch at first. I knew something must have happened. When we find out that Ren is their son, I was immediately fascinated with the way Abram got us, because the 1977 generation are now parents.  Our time is consumed with worry over our children.  Have they eaten enough?  Did they sleep enough?  Are they happy?  Are they healthy?  Will they be alright?  Are they going to be…good?

In Han and Leia, we have two people that are good.  Now some may argue with me about Han being “good” — smuggler, thief, etc. — but if you only have two labels (two’s all you get, good or evil) Han is good. (If you find it difficult, take a lesson from Santa; he’s only got two lists.)  Han and Leia are good people, and it turns out they have a child so evil that not even Han and Leia’s love for each other, nor their love for him, could save him.  Well, I’m jumping ahead — his redemption remains to be seen, but we hope that Ren will be saved from the dark side. But right now, Ren’s descent into evil culminates with killing his own father.

I’m taken back to the scene where Leia knows something horrible has happened. Her expression of remorse, guilt, and pure utter sadness was almost too much to bear; I ended up looking away from the screen.  It reminded me of other faces: the faces of the mothers of those two local boys on TV, sitting in court, sad, stoic and so still.

I remember reading an interview that Peter Lanza gave sometime after the shootings. He said, “I wish my son would never have been born.” Yes, this, this is the most horrible thing that could happen to someone.  That your child would become evil, so evil that they kill innocents in their anger.  So evil that they kill children and inflict pain on humankind in their wake. That your child reaches the depth of despair and they are lost to the dark forever. I’ve caught myself saying this many times: “I will go to Hell and back for my sons.” But in actuality, I don’t get to decide if I go to Heaven or Hell, and we all know that if you go to Hell, there’s no coming back.

Star Wars is the epitome of good vs evil, light vs dark, and all that it encompass. I can’t wait for the next one, because I hope that the light side wins, that good conquers all, and that Ren is saved. If he’s anything like his grandfather, which he so wants to be, he will have his moment of redemption.

This is what we truly hope for each day when we worry about our children. I always send my children off with the same sendoff each time they part from me.  After watching Star Wars it has taking on even more meaning that it has ever had before. “I love you (to the end of the galaxy and back), see you later (even if you die today, I’ll still see you later), and be good.”

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Sonya Rodriguez

Wife. Mother. Teacher.

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