…one day after the death of her daughter, Carrie Fisher.
Carrie Fisher’s death came as a shock because she had not been ill until experiencing cardiac arrest during a flight, and at 60 she was still relatively young. Afterwards, on learning that her 84-year-old mother was still alive, it made sense to feel especially bad for Debbie. Losing a child is an almost unspeakably terrible experience.
But when one day later Reynolds herself dropped dead, the story catapulted into a deeper realm (there’s even some resemblance to the ancient myth of Demeter and Persephone in the sorrow of the grieving mother), evoking pathos:
The Greek word pathos means “suffering,” “experience,” or “emotion.” It was borrowed into English in the 16th century, and for English speakers, the term usually refers to the emotions produced by tragedy or a depiction of tragedy.
It’s like a kick to the gut when a person seems to die of heartbreak. Who would have thought of that as the fate of Reynolds, who kept it light in most of her roles as the wholesome and innocent (yet sassy and spunky) girl-next-door?
Debbie Reynolds was part of my own youth, because she became a star in the Fifties. The movie I remember seeing her in when I was a child wasn’t “Singin’ in the Rain.” It was “Tammy and the Bachelor,” which I must have viewed at least five times in summer sleep-away camp. On rainy days, that seemed to be the movie they always showed.
Reynolds’ life wasn’t an easy one, as you can see from the clip I’m about to present (she had three husbands who really did her wrong, and two of them cleaned her out financially as well). I’ve cued it up for a 5-minute clip from a lengthy interview Oprah did with both Reynolds and Fisher in 2011. In it you can see their relationship, a strong bond forged through years of hardship and humor:
Here’s a short bio Carrie made and narrated about her mother’s life:
And lastly, here’s a short and very touching (and to me, surprising) clip of Debbie and Carrie singing together. I had no idea that Carrie Fisher sang, although of course both of her parents did it for a living. Her mother mentions here that she’d encouraged Carrie to sing back when she was young, and Carrie adds that she had stopped singing for thirty years. I believe this was the first time Carrie had sung in public for a long, long time.
You’ll see how she does: