Star Wars is more than just an entertainment franchise - that much is clear. It's more than a popular cultural phenomenon that has stood the test of time. Because of its longevity, Star Wars has come to mean many different things to many different people.
Here's what it means to me...
In 1999, during the run up to the release of Episode 1, I was a junior Nurse at a private hospital in Adelaide.
In late April of that year, I encountered a patient - a young man named David - who was terminally ill. He'd been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer just a few months before and he'd been given only weeks to live.
It was a rainy Friday night when I first met him. He lay in his bed, grossly swollen with fluid, completely bald and barely able to lift his head from the pillow. He was surrounded by Star Wars toys and, of course, my face lit up at all of the cool things he had. Alot of it was the mid 90's Hasbro merch - a couple of light up light sabers, a big arsed Millennium Falcon, some 12 inch figs and of course, those beefed up 3 & 3/4 figs that got most of us back into collecting after that long hiatus.
Suffice to say, we hit it off right away and I was encouraged by the fact that he too, had found something of a kindred spirit in me. His smile said it all.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I made sure that I was able to look after David when I was on duty and I'd bring in items from my own vintage collection for him to check out and play around with. We'd talk the films and the then EU books and of course, we'd toss theories back and forth about the possible story that Episode 1 would present. At one time, during his admission, there was a slight glimmer of hope that the medical and nursing team might be able to get David well enough that he could attend the premiere of the film in June, but it became clear that his condition was deteriorating quickly. He wouldn't get his wish.
Then I discovered something in the course of our conversations that created an opportunity to do the next best thing.
David had never seen the Holiday Special.
He'd heard about it but assumed that it was an urban myth - the kind you'd hear about in those early days of the internet when message boards were still a big thing and the web hadn't quite saturated our consciousness.
I had (and still have) a bootleg copy of the Holiday Special that I'd tracked down on one of the early iterations of eBay. When I told David this, the excitement in his dying eyes was as bright as the twin suns and so, I duly arranged for a special night where we would screen the Special on his TV, in his hospital room.
I came in on a Saturday night - my night off. His family had gotten in on the fun and we had a spread of snacks in his room, all his Star Wars kit on display and David dressed in his Star Wars jimmy-jams.
And we screened the Holiday Special. It was still the most wonderfully terrible piece of Star Wars even committed to celluloid (or DVD as it were), but it didn't matter. For David, for his family and the nurses and doctors who came in and out over the course of that evening, it was the best thing we had ever seen. So much laughter and gritting of teeth the worst bits. Cheers and tears at little Lumpy and fist pumps at Han and Chewie outrunning the Imperials on their way to Kashyyyk.
For David, it was the most wonderful thing ever. Star Wars that he had never seen.
I went to the midnight screening of Episode 1, having stood in line for hours with hundreds of other excited fans at Marion's GU Megaplex. Just as we were about to go in, I got a message from one of my colleagues at the hospital. David had died, literally half an hour before midnight.
I went to David's funeral a few days later. He was buried in his Star Wars jimmy-jams, his coffin was draped in a Star Wars beach towel and his green and red light sabers were crossed over the centre.
His Mum told me afterwards that they would never forget that last Saturday night. Screening the Holiday Special for him had given both he and them one last occasion of joy together.
That's what Star Wars means to me. Because of it, I was able to connect with someone during their darkest hour and share in something they could find joy in before their end.
Star Wars brings people together. It creates memories that last forever.