Debbie Reynolds' Greatest Fear Is Poignant

by Allie Gemmill
Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

So much has come to light about the inner lives of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds in the days following their respective passings, both untimely and heartbreaking. One such fact is that Reynolds' greatest fear was outliving her daughter, which Entertainment Tonight uncovered the actor wrote about in her 2013 autobiography, Unsinkable. It speaks to a fear unique to parenthood; it's common to hear that no parent wants to bury a child. Reynolds' own fears about having to bury her children cruelly became a reality when Fisher unexpectedly passed away on Dec. 27. It was reported that amidst planning Fisher's funeral the following day, Reynolds suffered a stroke which proved fatal. Reynolds did not outlive her daughter for very long; she died on Dec. 28.

But it is the knowledge of Reynolds' great fear that may make your heart sink and bring a tear to your eye (at least, that is the case with me). Fans have mourned her and Fisher, attempting to process the profound loss of a mother and daughter dying within 24 hours of one another. There have been reflections of lives lived in the public eye: career highs and low, emotional turmoil, conflicts, affairs, multiple marriages, an infamous love triangle — two lives more alike than we may realize.

As we continue to reflect, it's only natural that we reflect on just how those similar lives became entwined as one of the most unique mother-daughter relationships in Hollywood. Reynolds and Fisher had a reportedly complicated relationship. We have a basic understanding of that relationship through the semi-autobiographical Postcards From The Edge, a book written by Fisher and later adapted by her into a screenplay. If we're to believe that there was an element of "stage mom"-ness to their relationship, then it's not difficult to imagine the tensions that would arise. Add in the complications of Reynolds remarrying twice and rebuilding a career after losing her fortune, as well as Fisher's struggle with bipolar disorder and drug addiction, and you may very well have a receipt for a big rift.

But they healed themselves. They mended those fences. In the last few decades, Reynolds and Fisher enjoyed a closeness that we got to see in public. It's that renewed bond that makes Reynolds' fear of outliving Fisher feel poignant. Through the good and the bad, Reynolds loved her daughter and truly never wanted to be separated from her. Only when you realize that all of the good times and bad times meant something — that it made these women closer and it bonded them — do you see that there's a way to mourn them without feeling sad. They are still together, in whatever beautiful plane of existence that may be.

And so, going forward, learning of Reynolds' greatest fear somehow becomes a balm for the pain. There are many mysteries in this world and the depths of a mother's love for her daughter is one we have yet to untangle. A majority of us have never had the fortune to know Reynolds or Fisher personally. All we know of them is what we have seen in films, interviews, and print. But we know that these women will forever be together, wherever that may be, and they built a strong enough bond in life that it couldn't be broken by anything. Not even death.