The primary concern of many fathers is the future of their child (or the futures of their children). I have known many men who completely changed their lives for the sake of providing for the future of their child, giving up their old addictions, selling their fancy toys, giving up sleep, and putting in extra hours of work.
There are no guarantees for the father who rearranges the course of his life to provide for his child. That child may grow up to hate him in youth, be indifferent to him in the prime of life, and abandon him in old age. The child may reject every sacrifice his father made for the child’s future. And the pain and heartbreak the father must endure when the child does not return his love might make him wish for his own death.
For the father whose love has been rejected by his child, there is no more to do for them; either the child will accept the love they have offered or the father will die knowing that he gave them everything, that he has poured out his life as an offering of love for them.
He will treasure them always in his heart, and though he may not express his heartache, his heart will be breaking for them constantly. If he can reach out to us and bring us back into the full embrace of his love, he will. If not, he will respect the choice of his child. In either case, the father has been fulfilled by choosing to love.
In The Force Awakens, we see an excellent example of a father choosing to try to make the future of his child better. Han Solo and Leia Organa had sent their son Ben to train with Luke Skywalker and become a great Jedi so that he could have a bold, bright future. But instead he was seduced by Supreme Leader Snoke to the Dark Side, where he exercises great power.
This setting of power above love by Ben (known as Kylo Ren by The First Order) is the common inversion of the masculine virtues, in which all a man’s power is at the service of love. This disorder of moral priorities so typical for men to fall into is at the heart of what in Star Wars is called The Dark Side. The Dark Side, so emblematic of masculinity as a vice (and whose protagonists are unsurprisingly consistently played by male actors) shows us what happens when men do not put love first: raw power rises to the top.
In this disorder of The First Order, men without the greatest power are merely tools to be used and discarded by the men at the apex of power. Women are treated as objects, killed, or subjected to the order of power and find a place within it, as in the case of Captain Phasma.
In The Resistance, women are the partners of men, occasionally warriors, and in rare cases their leaders. Women often have different talents on average, but their talents are valued by The Resistance because it is fundamentally an order of love, bound together by familial bonds.
Even Han Solo, famously independent and reluctant to be tied down, submits to the familial bond of love and accepts the mission from Leia to attempt to bring their son back to the Light, to secure the future of their child. He does his part to bring down the Starkiller base threatening the existence of The Resistance, but lets that mission go once he sees his son.
He takes the risk of love that fathers choose to take knowing the price they pay may be very high, and calls out to his son from the distance between them. His son remains in his place, but Han closes the distance between them, inviting his son to come back home where his future is not tied to the destruction awaiting The First Order in its reliance on power, power which inevitably turns on its wielders, just as Han explains.
His son quietly pleads with his father to help him, to release him from the cares of life, but Han cannot do such a thing because he wants a future for his son, and so his son goes back to the destructive ways of power to resolve the problem. He kills his father with the blood-red lightsaber of the Dark Side, rejecting his father’s offer of a future of loving family and accepting the brief future of power.
Han accepts his death, respecting his son’s decision to refuse his offer to return to his blood kin, his offer to be welcomed home after committing unspeakable crimes. He simply holds his son’s face as he dies, remembering his love and hoping for his future.
Han chose his future, chose to die for the chance to help his son have a brighter future. His life had been the life of a smuggler, a womanizer, and a warrior; his death was the death of love, of a father inviting his son into the Light where he can see a brighter future.