The first thing I did when my Dad died was go through his wallet. I think I was looking for proof that he loved us, although, deep down, I knew I didn’t need it. Tucked safely below the front flap was a photo of my sister from her freshman year and two stamps—Yoda and Luke Skywalker standing beneath two, red suns. It took me a few days but I realized that those stamps were from a letter that I’d sent him. He didn’t have a picture of me, but he had those stamps.
My father first showed me Star Wars when I was six-years-old after he’d proudly purchased episodes 4-6 on VHS. He told me about the night that he and his friends first saw A New Hope and raced through the dark streets of Indiana—aware that the world was just beginning. I’ve always liked to picture him like that.
When my Dad first started to disappear, I clung to those movies for dear life. I watched Return of the Jedi on repeat—and every time Luke took off Darth Vadar’s mask, I cried like a dark, unnamable sea was broken within me.
I think I’m the only one I know who loves the new star wars movies, and it’s because, for me the story of Anakin Skywalker is profoundly personal. It’s about a young man with a gift, a special power and the ability to change the galaxy. But it’s also about a boy who grew up with trauma and an overwhelming sadness that he was unable to overcome. Anakin was a good man who loved his wife, his children and despite his best, most valiant efforts, was crippled by fear. To this day, the story of Anakin Skywalker breaks my heart.
For a long time I was afraid to be my father’s daughter. I was afraid of all the ways in which I was like him. I like to tell stories, I like to exaggerate, I’m very stubborn.
But Luke always believed that there was good in Darth Vadar—he never lost faith. And, in the end, Anakin Skywalker gave Luke the Force—this tremendous, lovely magic that coursed through his blood. Luke had every opportunity to go to the Dark Side but instead, he fought for everything that was strong and brave about his Father.
Star Wars provides the best explanation that I can come up with for what happened to the man who taught me to climb trees, who encouraged me to be fearless and told me that I was the strongest person he knew when I was still a little girl who barely came up to his elbow. This man I loved, who I still love, with a fierce, protective power—was lost for a time to something very akin to a dark side. But that darkness does not negate all the light and love my father contained.
I am not afraid of being like my father any longer. He gave me this force, this magic that runs through my veins. It is my father who taught me to love stories, to believe in the tender power of words. When I was little and frightened he told me I could ask him any question I wanted. About life, death, the universe. And with his imagination and charm, he took all my questions, all my rage, and transformed them into something beautiful.
My Dad taught me that life is not black and white, not all or nothing and humans are neither good nor bad. Such a simple explanation leaves no room for beauty.
My dad was a complicated man but when I was a child he fought for the good in me, the magic he knew I had in my heart. And despite everything—in the end, my Father knew that we too, believed in the light in him—that we knew all the wonder he contained.
And perhaps that’s how love gets bigger than us. When we fight for the good, the light in each other, maybe that’s how the Force can reach out into the world and create something more magical than we can ever imagine. And that’s how I like to think of my Father now—the full force of his creativity, his kindness, surrounding us, and binding the universe together.