On Friday evening I logged onto Twitter to find two of my favorite guys on there, William Shatner and Mark Hamill, expressing frantic concern over Carrie Fisher’s well-being. Neither of them said in detail what had happened, but I remember whispering, “Oh no no no no please no” as I tried to find out what was going on.

Seconds later, phrases like “massive heart attack” and “15 minutes for the paramedics to get a pulse” left me reeling. I found myself praying desperately for Carrie Fisher. Every time I thought about her I prayed, “Oh God please, if it’s your will, please use this to bring her to yourself even if you have to speak to her through a coma. Please let her recover, please…”

Because here’s the thing: an actor or actress is not their character per se…but they kinda are, all the same. They’ve breathed life into the characters we know and love, characters who’ve inspired and comforted us, who’ve made us laugh and cry and, sometimes, want to throw things at the screen.

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So unless they’re just downright unpleasant, distasteful individuals. you can’t help but feel a certain connection with those actors, even if you disagree with them on certain issues. And if they’ve actually tried to make a legitimate, positive difference through their art, and if the people around them think they’re just lovely…well, that makes it even easier to see them as real people, with real souls and hearts as needy for Jesus as our own.

I know that’s why I always wanted to give Carrie Fisher, especially, a big hug and whisper, “God is real, Carrie, and He’s bigger than all your troubles.” This is a woman whose father left her mother for Elizabeth Taylor when she, Carrie, was only two. She struggled with drug addiction and mental illness. She once described herself as “an enthusiastic agnostic who would be happy to be shown there is a God.” Apparently she found some solace in her father’s Jewish faith in her later years.

I pray she did see The God Who Is There before the end. Because Carrie’s death comes at the end of a very rough, very sad year, and it seems like the whole world is crying.

And why? Because she was Leia. She was our princess. She was the one who first looked Darth Vader in the eye and flat-out defied him before Luke ever thought about doing it. She went back for Luke and again for Han when nobody else thought it was worth it. She strangled Jabba the Hutt and befriended the Ewoks, and she went on to become a general, and she had a son who betrayed her and STILL!

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And still, in that moment when we were Rey and we needed a hug, Leia was there to hug us all.

I know some of my readers may not understand the sorrow we’re feeling right now. I even get where you’re coming from, because my practical, logical side says all the same things: “An actor is not their character, and you’re doing a pretty poor job of separating the two.”

But please, have grace with us, and consider it in this light: we are grieving the loss of someone who breathed life into a character who’s inspired little girls (and writers of kindhearted, feminine, but kick-butt heroines) since 1977. We’re grieving the loss of a woman who was, by all accounts, deeply loved by her family and friends.

To paraphrase Max von Sydow’s character in The Force Awakens, “To us, she was royalty.” And we will always be very, very grateful to Carrie Fisher for Princess Leia Organa Solo, Hope of the Rebellion, General of the Resistance.

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