I was on my way to buy groceries last week when the news came over the radio. Robin Williams was gone. I cried in the grocery store parking lot. I was struck so deeply by it, that I had to find an excuse for my reaction–why mourn so deeply for a celebrity? A person I’d never met. A man who brought joy with his comedy and movies. A man who was manic and candid and childlike and brilliant. He made some of my favorite movies. I remember watching him on a late night show with my mom in the 90s–we laughed so hard, we fell on the floor, wiped tears from our eyes, laughed just as hard 15 minutes later in remembering to one another what he had said or done. He was a bringer of light, even as he dealt with his own darkness.
I have purposefully avoided reading the negative commentary that inspired Zelda, his daughter, to leave Twitter with a bitterly sad note that she may never return. Who feels they should speak ill of the dead in the moments after they have passed, regardless of how they passed? Who thinks it’s justified to spew negativity at a person they’ve never met in the wake of her father’s death? Who does that? Only monsters, in my mind.
I cannot admit to living with monsters, though the evidence is all around me. I have to believe that people like the ones Robin Williams portrayed in his movies are still all around us–John Keatings and Patch Adamses, Adrian Cronauers, Morks, and Chris Nielsens. Teachers who make us think and step out of the cadence and stand on desks all to gain our own perspective. Doctors who see the patient as a human, not a disease, not a problem to solve, not a thing, and who values laughter as a healing tool. Radio deejays who play us the music, who tell us the jokes, who bring us the news, who buck the “man” while still sharing the unifying magic of song. The outsiders who bring us their unique perspective and humor and wonder. Dedicated spouses who will walk with us into hell and back, no matter how challenging the lives we share may become. Those are the people I want to believe are the majority.
And though it is hard to talk about, and though some of us cannot understand the reality of depression, and though we can never know what kind of life another person lives inside their own minds and hearts, we CAN have compassion for another human being who struggles, who battles, and who loses that battle. It’s not easy, and I am sad that this is how Robin left this planet, and I pray for his family to find their way to healing in the days and months and years to come. And for those of us who can imagine the struggle, who can identify with the pain, please know that there is help, there are people who love you, that even though it seems as if there are no more choices, there are. There are. Call 1-800-273-8255 if you are in distress.
Robin Williams, I thank you for the happiness you gave me through your art. You made my life happier and brighter. I stood on my desk in my high school English class to prove a point because of you. Farewell for now. I hope I get to meet you someday. Thank you.