It was a tragic holiday season for Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher’s family, with the mother-daughter pair, both longtime Hollywood stars, passing away within a day of each other. No one had a closer view to the heartbreak than Todd Fisher, who lost sister Carrie on Tuesday, December 27, four days after she suffered a heart attack, and mother Reynolds the next day, after she suffered a stroke.
Todd sat down with 20/20’s Elizabeth Vargas for a special entitled Debbie & Carrie: A Hollywood Love Story on Friday, December 30, to talk about the tragic deaths, the unique love the mother and daughter had for each other and the final days of both of their lives.
Here are seven things we learned from the emotional program.
1. Reynolds and Carrie were next-door neighbors in recent years, with the two sharing the same driveway. Reynolds bought the house next to Carrie’s, Todd revealed, and enjoyed being closer to her granddaughter, 24-year-old Scream Queens actress Billie Lourd.
“I think it just sort of happened,” Todd said, when asked about Reynolds moving in. “That was also a beautiful thing, that they could be together at that level. On your way out [of the house], you’d see how Mom’s doing.”
2. In Carrie’s final hours, family members, including Reynolds, got bedside time with the Star Wars star. “Things didn’t need to be said or done differently,” Todd said. “Things happened naturally.” He continued about the grief-stricken Singin’ in the Rain legend, “My mother had said, ‘I don’t want to attend my daughter’s funeral.’ … [While planning Carrie’s funeral], she said she wanted to be with Carrie. Within 30 minutes, technically, she was gone.”
3. Only one week ago, Carrie “was at the top of her game,” Todd said, as the actress had been in England promoting projects, including her new memoir, The Princess Diarist. “She was excited about Christmas. Her favorite thing to do was give out gifts. She always had the most amazing things for everybody.”
4. Family members thought Carrie, upon arriving back in California, might pull through, though the Blues Brothers actress was in critical condition. “We thought we might be able to save her — that was in play for a little while. [It was] not a sure thing, by any means,” Todd said. Reynolds knew, Todd said, that her daughter was fading. “[Reynolds] felt she had already left the building, so to speak.”
5. Reynolds’ sudden and quick death happened in front of Todd’s eyes. “I just sat there and watched her leave,” he said. “She had a will to not want to leave Carrie.” Todd said lightheartedly that Reynolds will be a help to Carrie in heaven: “God said, ‘Get up here, and give us a hand.'”
6. Reynolds and Carrie, who didn’t talk for years, would never have done so had Carrie not initiated the silence, according to Todd. “Debbie would never break off communication with Carrie, whatsoever,” he said.
7. Carrie and Reynolds’ final resting places will be next to each other, surrounded by family friends Liberace and Bette Davis at L.A.’s Forest Lawn cemetery. “It’s horrible, it’s beautiful, it’s magical,” Todd said. “They’re together.”
20/20 airs on ABC Fridays at 10 p.m. ET.