It seemed unlikely that 32-year-old Daniel Fleetwood of Spring, TX, would get to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As first reported in People, Fleetwood’s terminal cancer diagnosis (spindle cell carcinoma, which originates in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs) had taken over 90% of his lungs.
"Growing up, I would watch the [Star Wars] movies over and over and analyze every little detail,” Fleetwood told People. “I hope I get to see what happens."
He and his wife, Ashley, took to social media, creating the #ForceForDaniel Twitter campaign in the hopes he might get to see the film. It worked. Fleetwood watched an early cut of The Force Awakens from his living room last Saturday. Director J.J. Abrams himself placed a spirit-lifting call to Fleetwood.
When I heard about this, one word flew into my mind straight away: “Mom.”
My mom, Martha, was an amazing person. The center of not just my immediate family, but our extended brood of cousins, aunts, and uncles, Mom was equal parts loving and super-cool. She lived in flannel shirts and jeans, played Joni Mitchell and Zeppelin records, baked the best pies on Planet Earth, and kept us all feeling cared for without ever being too effusive.
When she was diagnosed with uterine cancer in the late ’90s, none of us could imagine life without her. My father jumped into caretaker mode in the most heartfelt, “all-in” way. My sister, Megan, did everything she could to be there for Mom. Me? I was graduating college and had no real idea what I could do, except call often, tell dumb jokes, and say “I love you” a lot. For all of us, bringing Mom some joy and returning a lifetime’s worth of love was of paramount importance.
Now, my mom and sister had read the first two Harry Potter books and totally loved them. (Mom was kind of an Anglophile, so that’s no surprise.) “Mom and I had been waiting for that first Harry Potter movie [Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone] to come out,” Meg recalls. But by March 2002, the cancer was getting bad and Mom was on the hospice floor of Norwalk Hospital, in Connecticut. There was pretty much no chance she would still be around to see Harry, Ron, and Hermione make it to the big screen.
Okay, here’s where it gets good. Upon hearing the situation, two of Megan’s friends, Jason and Sonya, figured there was something they could do. The two were friends with a family member of Chris Columbus, the film's director. A few pulled strings later, and suddenly we were in possession of an early screener copy of Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone. “We had a TV with a VCR wheeled into her room for us to watch it,” Megan recalls. “It meant so much to me that they had done that for us...that she could see it and also that I could watch it with her.”
What moves me about this, as well as the tale of Daniel Fleetwood and The Force Awakens, isn’t the Hollywood factor. It’s that some good people took a bit of time out and cared enough to see what they could do to help. Meg’s friends, as well as Mr. Columbus, extended a kind gesture when my mom needed it. I still remember that, 13 years later, as one of the coolest things anyone’s ever done for my family.
All we wanted back then was to see Mom smile her beautiful smile in the midst of all that "finality." For a day, she was riding high like Harry Potter. A little kindness goes a long way.