Listen: Gary Bagby explains his fear of death – and of missing Star Wars – to Sam Robinson.
You know your Star Wars obsession has become serious when the news of the latest instalment makes you cry uncontrollably—because you fear you might die before you see it.
Incredibly, that’s how Gary Bagby reacted when, a teenager in the 1990s, he found out George Lucas and co were planning the prequels.
Gary, a rapper also known by the name Foreknown, chatted about the unusual experience this week in an interview with Hope 103.2’s Sam Robinson this week.
“My Name Is Gary, And I Struggle With Death Anxiety”
From his hometown in Phoneix, Arizona, Gary said that it wasn’t just excessive movie fandom that triggered his morbid teenage reaction.
Rather, it was rooted in an underlying problem with a specific mental issue—“death anxiety”.
And although Gary’s a Christian with a deep certainty that he’ll go to heaven to be with God after he dies, it’s still an ongoing battle he has to work on as an adult.
Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by
“My whole life, I’ve had anxiety when it comes to death, just worried about missing out on things, and worried about what’s going to happen after I die, even as a believer,” he explained.
“But it becomes very prominent to me when I think about new Star Wars films. I’m a huge Star Wars fan and with the movies coming out, every time there’s a new one coming out, I start getting anxious – like, “What if I die and I don’t get to see the final film and I don’t know the whole story?” I’m just so scared to miss out.”
“What If I Die; What If I Miss It?”
The fear of dying before the conclusion of the Star Wars saga, began when the then-high schooler Gary was lying in bed one night.
“When they first announced the Prequels I just got really excited,” he said.
“I’d grown up with Star Wars. I was born in 1979, the first movie came out in 77, so that was my childhood, and nobody ever thought that there would be more movies. So the announcement of the prequels just rocked my world.
“But then I also instantly got really sad and just started crying, and could not stop thinking about, “what if I die, what if I miss it?””
The Cancer Patient Who Got An Exclusive Screening
Gary Bagby isn’t the only guy who’s ever worried about dying before seeing the new Star Wars episode.
Leading up to the December 2015 release of The Force Awakens, a fascinating story hit the news of Daniel Fleetwood—the 31-year-old, dyed-in-the-wool Star Wars fan who was dying of lung cancer.
A social media campaign titled #ForceForDaniel, supported by some of the film’s actors convinced director JJ Abrams to allow Fleetwood a private screening.
Sadly the Texan died in early November, about a month before the movie’s public release, having received his dying wish.
Gary said that the story triggered some of his old feelings again, about the fear of dying and missing out.
Death Anxiety A Serious Mental Issue
While the image of someone getting terrified of missing a Hollywood blockbuster may sound amusing, Gary’s experience is an outworking of a serious mental struggle.
In a two-part blog post on the topic, titled Death Anxiety And The Force, Gary wrote that the thought of “missing out” has been a major player in his death anxiety.
Other factors have included doubts about his faith, fear of the unknown, and wondering about the timing and the nature of his death.
“It mainly hits at night,” he said. “The times where I’m laying in bed, trying to fall asleep, and my mind is just processing things.”
But he’s done a lot of thinking and praying in the 20 years since he lay in bed as a teen, riding that emotional rollercoaster.
So when he heard that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was on the way, the same old fear still turned up to a degree, but Gary handled it a whole lot better.
How God’s Truths Have Calmed His Fears
“There would be times where I would get little tinges of fear, mixed in with the excitement,” Gary said of the experience in 2012, “but definitely God has grown me to the point where I wasn’t sobbing like I was with the prequels. I can handle it more.”
In his struggle with the fear of death and missing out, Gary has been led back to the gospel message – of God’s promise for eternal life – time and time again.
“What I’ve been learning is that God is sovereign and that God is going to do what God is going to do and that when it’s my time, it’s my time,” he said.
To be honest with you, to this day, the fear still hits, it’s just that I’m able to turn to God and deal with it a lot quicker.
“And even though I can sit there and cry about “I’m going to miss Star Wars”, or “What if I die and I don’t get to meet my grandchildren”, there’s always going to be something that I’m worried about missing out on.
“I could live to be 500 years old and still find something on this planet to be worried about missing out on. But that’s only if I’m not looking at what God has promised me eternally in heaven. “
“But to be honest with you, to this day, the fear still hits, it’s just that I’m able to turn to God and deal with it a lot quicker.”
Turning To God’s Word
In part two of his Death Anxiety blog post, Gary wrote that although he struggles with fear of death, and sometimes even fear of life, a number of key Biblical scriptures have helped him to trust God much more and to stop fearing the unknown.
“I can trust that what God has in store for me in heaven is infinitely more rewarding than anything I would believe myself to be missing out on earth,” he writes.
“He will wipe away my tears [over] family left behind, friends lost, and yes, even Star Wars films unseen. When I enter the kingdom of heaven, my eyes will be set on God. I will not miss a thing.”
Spoiler Alert: *Gary Bagby Lived To See The Movie
Thankfully, Gary Bagby did live long enough to see The Force Awakens, with his whole family in tow, in a 3D IMAX cinema at midnight. He thought it was “phenomenal”.
“It was more than I even hoped that it would be,” he said. “I’m 36 years old and I went into the movie and felt like a kid again.
“There’s always so much excitement and build-up that comes before those midnight premieres, and when you go it’s just this camaraderie, and everybody knows that everybody else there is a superfan.
“There were about 10 different moments when everybody just kind of cheered, and we all knew exactly what everybody else was feeling.
“There’s some big reveals; there’s so many points that I caught myself gasping, just because of the things that went on in this film.”
He implored those who’ve seen the movie to “love your neighbours” and not say anything about it, in case you let out a spoiler.