Carrie & Debbie Fisher’s Funeral Explained: Urn, Memorial & Service

Updated

If you're looking into Carrie Fisher's funeral, you know that Carrie Fisher might have been most famous for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars films. But she was also a beloved daughter, sister, and mother. Carrie Fisher was also an inspiration to many when she spoke openly about her struggles with drug abuse and mental illness. 

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On December 27, 2016, Carrie Fisher died suddenly of cardiac arrest, at the age of 60. It was just four days after she’d experienced a medical emergency during a transatlantic flight to Los Angeles from London. 

The last Star Wars film to feature new footage of Carrie Fisher, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, premiered on December 15, 2017. The film-makers fittingly dedicated the release to the recently-departed actress who’d help make the franchise so successful. 

Why Did Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Have a Combined Funeral?

Carrie Fisher wasn’t the first person in her family to achieve stardom. Her mother, Debbie Reynolds, was an actress whose career spanned nearly 70 years. And her father, Eddie Fisher, was a popular singer in the early 1950s. 

Carrie Fisher and her mother shared a unique bond, which they immortalized in the 2016 documentary, Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. But just a few weeks before the documentary premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds passed away. 

With their deaths occurring just one day apart, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds’s family held a combined funeral for the mother-daughter pair. 

Carrie and Debbie’s Deaths

Carrie Fisher died following a sudden cardiac arrest on December 27, 2017. The LA County Medical Examiner’s Office found that sleep apnea, as well as heart disease, contributed to her death at a relatively young age. 

Actress Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher’s daughter, stated that her mother “battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life,” and that the actress “ultimately died of it.” 

Just one day following her daughter’s death, Debbie Reynolds suffered a fatal stroke at the age of 84. Reynolds’s son, Todd Fisher, told reporters that the last thing Debbie had said was that she wanted to be with Carrie again. 

Debbie Reynolds’s Last Wishes

Because they died on subsequent days, it made sense for the family of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher to arrange the two burials together. 

And Debbie Reynolds’s final wish to be together with her beloved daughter again must have also been present in the family’s mind.

The two had their burials, side-by-side, shortly after their deaths and their combined private memorial. 

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What Happened During Their Funeral? 

Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher had a shared, private memorial on a Thursday shortly following their deaths. The people who loved the dynamic duo most closely attended the closed service at the compound where both women had their houses next to each other. 

Months later, a grander and more public memorial took place at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, where the two stars were buried. 

Private memorial

The day before the burial, the family of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher held a private, invitation-only memorial service. It took place at the duo’s compound, where they lived next door to each other, in Beverly Hills. 

Photographers captured photos outside the gates, but they weren’t allowed inside. However, they did spot notable close friends of Debbie and Carrie entering the complex, including Meryl Streep, Penny Marshall, Courtney Love, Gwenyth Paltrow, and Meg Ryan. 

Family members, including Carrie’s daughter, Billie Lourd, and half-sisters, Joely and Tricia Fisher, were also in attendance. 

Broadway honors

On Friday night, after Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds were laid to rest, theaters in New York City honored the legends by dimming their marquees. 

At 7:45 PM, Broadway performed its customary salute to the passing of a theater luminary. The theaters dimmed their marquee lights for one minute as a memorial to the departed actresses.  

Both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds had performed on Broadway, making their joint debut in a 1973 musical called Irene. Most recently, Carrie Fisher had appeared on Broadway to perform her solo show, Wishful Drinking. She also appeared in Agnes of God

Public memorial

Three months after their private memorial and burials, Debbie and Carrie’s family invited the public to celebrate their lives. Hollywood VIPs gathered at Forest Lawn Memorial Park to remember the lives the mother and daughter led. 

Debbie Reynolds’s son, Todd Fisher, opened the service, which he described as a “show”  rather than a “memorial.” According to Todd Fisher, his mother didn’t like funerals or memorials and preferred shows and parties.

Color guard for Debbie Reynolds

The event began with a color guard to honor Debbie Reynolds’s work supporting the troops. 

In 1955, Debbie Reynolds started a charity foundation called The Thalians, along with Jack Haley Jr. and Hugh O’Brien, to help fight the stigma of mental illness. After endowing the Mental Health Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and raising $30 million, the charity shifted its attention to UCLA’s Operation Mind. 

Operation Mind provides important medical and mental health support to returning military service personnel.

Heartfelt opening

Todd Fisher then shared his plans to put his sister’s writing room, as well as his mother’s living room, on display for fans to visit and view. He shared a heartfelt speech about his beloved sister and mother, describing his mother’s death as a “beautiful exit.” 

He noted that his mother had said many times that she never wanted to go to her daughter’s funeral. He noted that Renolds had even asked her son for “permission” to die and be with her daughter. 

Video remembrance

Fisher then played a montage that captured his sister in various moments of her life, from her most famous roles in film to some candid moments at home. The montage wrapped up with some footage from her last Star Wars appearance.

After Carrie Fisher’s montage, R2D2-style droids rolled over to an empty director’s chair bearing Carrie Fisher’s name, and another short video played. 

Then, another montage—this time dedicated to Debbie Reynolds—opened with her most memorable song and dance performances. Debbie Reynolds’s montage also included moments from her work as president of The Thalians. 

Standing ovation

Next, Reynolds’s close friend and charity partner, Ruta Lee, gave a speech and a performance. After wrapping up, Lee asked the crowd for a standing ovation in honor of Reynolds and Fisher. 

Song and dance

Following Lee’s standing ovation, four students from Reynolds’s dance school took center stage. They performed the Dirty Boogie, followed by a tap-dancing duo and a tribute to Reynolds’s breakout role in Singin’ in the Rain

Performances and tributes

More short videos, as well as heartfelt speeches and short performances, added even more flair to Reynolds and Fisher’s combined celebration of life.

How Did Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Choose to Be Buried?

Just as Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds lived next door to each other in life, they were buried side-by-side after they passed away. Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds were laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, with just a few close family members present. 

Carrie Fisher’s urn

While Debbie had a traditional burial in a casket, Carrie Fisher’s burial—true to form—was more unconventional. 

Carrie Fisher was cremated, following her wishes. And the family subsequently placed some of her ashes in a ceramic urn, shaped like an antidepressant capsule. 

The creative urn choice reflected Fisher’s sense of humor, as well as her years advocating for mental health awareness. 

Where are they buried? 

Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds are both interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park. The cemetery is located in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. 

Forest Lawn was already the final resting place of numerous other famous figures, including Bette Davis, Florence Henderson, and Garry Marshall. 

Remembering Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher had a knack for bringing lightness and humor to any topic, including death. 

She even made comical references to her own obituary, once noting, “I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.” The statement was in reference to a conversation she’d had with Star Wars creator George Lucas about why Princess Leia couldn’t wear underwear in space. 

In addition to her lighthearted remarks on the topic of death, Carrie Fisher helped many fans cope with mental health issues through humor. And her funeral service, shared with her mother, as well as her unique burial urn, reflects this to a T. 

If you're looking for more on notable funerals, read our guides on celebrity funerals and what to do when a celebrity dies.


Sources

  1. Wong, Julia Carrie and Convery, Stephanie. “Debbie Reynolds dies one day after daughter Carrie Fisher.” The Guardian. 29 December 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/dec/28/debbie-reynolds-hospital-carrie-fisher-mother
  2. Chavez, Nicole and Almasy, Steve. “Coroner releases findings in Carrie Fisher's death.” CNN. 17 June 2017. https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/17/entertainment/carrie-fisher-cause-of-death/index.html
  3. Deerwester, Jayme. “All the details from Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds' memorial service.” USA Today. 25 March 2017. https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2017/03/25/public-memorial-to-carrie-fisher-and-debbie-reynolds/99623236/
  4. Pressberg, Matt. “Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds Funeral Features Dancing, Droids and a Standing Ovation.” The Wrap. 25 March 2017. https://www.thewrap.com/carrie-fisher-debbie-reynolds-funeral-features-dancing-droids-and-a-standing-ovation/
  5. Weaver, Hilary. “Carrie Fisher Gets a Laugh Even at Her Own Funeral [Updated].” Vanity Fair. 7 January 2017. https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2017/01/carrie-fisher-funeral-prozac-urn
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