Debbie Reynolds' friend Sue Cameron recalls to PEOPLE how her final Christmas was marred by tragedy

By Alexia Fernandez and Liz McNeil
December 27, 2019 06:18 PM
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Debbie Reynolds loved Christmas — so much so that she kept a tree up year-round — but her final holiday was marred by tragedy.

The late acting legend, who died on Dec. 28, 2016 just one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher, had prepared a Christmas celebration for her family that would never be enjoyed, her friend and writer Sue Cameron tells PEOPLE.

“When Carrie was flying in on the plane [from London], Debbie had already made sure the table was set. The menu, everything,” Cameron says.

Despite the preparations, the family — which included Fisher’s daughter Billie Lourd — wouldn’t enjoy the prepared feast.

“But there was no Christmas dinner,” Cameron says. “The table just sat there.”

Fisher died at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016, after having a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles just two days before Christmas on December 23. Reynolds died the day after her daughter’s death from a stroke at the age of 84.

Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Now, the winter holiday holds bittersweet memories — but despite the sudden passing of the two acting greats, Cameron says three years later that “it’s almost as if they’ve never really gone.”

“Debbie kept a Christmas tree up 24 hours a day, all year,” says Cameron of her friend’s adoration of the holiday. “Debbie just loved Christmas.”

“I think in a way they’ve never left because there are constant reminders about their lives,” Cameron adds. “It’s almost as if they’ve never really gone. Star Wars is back and Carrie’s daughter, Billie, is becoming a star.”

Debbie Reynolds
Stefanie Keenan/WireImage

Lourd shared a video of herself singing John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” in memory of her late mother on Friday. The 27-year-old actress can be seen briefly opposite Fisher in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, as well as in American Horror Story and Booksmart.

“✨TakeYourBrokenHeartAndTurnItIntoArt Bathtub Sessions-Angel From Montgomery,” Lourd wrote in the caption. “✨❤️✨“You will lose someone you can’t live without and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up.”

Carrie Fisher, Billie Lourd
Todd Williamson/Getty

She added, “And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp. – Anne Lamott ✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨??to @moonbrothersmusic.”

On Christmas day, Lourd shared a throwback photo of herself as a baby with mom Fisher and grandmother Reynolds.

“Sending my love to everyone who has lost someone they loved and is missing them a little extra today. I see you,” she wrote in the caption. “Don’t grieve in silence. You’re not alone. ❤️”