I don’t usually comment on celebrity deaths for many reasons. One, they are no more important than the millions of other deaths that occur on a given day (like my aunt, Patricia. Also, the airwaves and internet tubes are usually so overwhelmed and flooded with related material that I see no reason to add to it. However, I’ve realized that whether people know it or not, writing these things isn’t really about the person who died, it’s about us. We write these words for ourselves because we need to do so. To help process our own feelings. And do understand the other side of it. How a musician or actor or anyone of note can feel like a part of you, an influence. An old friend.
However, the suicide of Robin Williams has sat with me in a way that I didn’t expect. Yes, I was a huge fan from an early age as evidenced in this photo:
I loved “Mork From Ork” and my Mork suspenders were a prized possession (that’s also the fedora mention in the post about my aunt that she bought me at a thrift store when I was really into the Blues Brothers). I remember sitting in my grandmother’s bed watching his comedy special on HBO (R.I.P. Mimi). I always thought he was brilliant and hilarious. I hadn’t really thought about him much in a long time now though, so the weight of this was quite a surprise.
In the days since his death, it’s sat inside me like a stone. I listened to Marc Maron’s repost of his podcast with Robin from 2010 and it was comforting, and also a little eerie and sad in places, but overall Robin sounded at ease, happy, comfortable and serene. Some have been shocked by the level of details that have been released concerning his death, but I personally, am thankful. For some people, like myself, it’s not about some morbid thrill or fascination with gory details but for some reason they help me process it. It’s just something about the very detail oriented type of person I am. It bothers me when I can’t fill in the whole picture. It’s like I can’t ever really fully process it to closure for some reason. I am one of those people who, upon hearing of a death, immediately think “how?” and want as much information as I can get. It’s probably linked to my highly analytical mind and such. It’s not about morbid thrills.
“Depression lies” is something I read that is so true, but also that, obviously, it’s a very convincing liar. I’m very lucky in that I am someone who is just generally positive and happy and can use the power of my mind and such. However, that’s me. I also recognize that for some, this may be much harder. There may well be physical, chemical imbalances and such. I would never think that someone else is weak or broken because they can’t just “be happy” or “get better.” I know I’m lucky. I do believe that all mental things are just like physical things in that your mind is like a muscle and you can build and strengthen pathways and though processes but it’s not easy, and it’s much harder to track and see progress. You can’t say “Last month I was only lifting 40 happiness pounds with my mind and this month I’m lifting 50!” It can be frustrating to feel out of control of your own mind, but I can tell you from experience that it can be done (obviously, individual mileage may vary). I couldn’t necessarily see the progress as it was happening, but now I can look back and see how far I’ve come in many ways. It’s a long game.
Something else that really sparked my mind into gear was some controversy (as detailed in this article) over The Academy and many other people posting pictures from Aladdin (in which Robin Williams played the Genie) with homages like “Genie, you’re free.” I had seen these as I’m sure they were intended, a warm, heartfelt goodbye with no malice but I had never even thought about how they very well could propagate the notion to depressed people that suicide equals freedom. There is no “freedom” in death. Only death. And the weight, absence and devastation it leaves behind.
Now that being said, I am not here to take a stand on any side. I don’t care whether suicide is “selfish” or not (and frankly, I don’t think “selfish” is an inherently bad word as it’s usually conveyed…it’s just as bad to not love and take care of ourselves enough because we sacrifice everything for others). I’m not here to condone or condemn. All I know is that one morning Robin Williams probably kissed his wife goodbye in the morning, (she also called him her best friend) and then felt like he had to go take his own life despite being one of the most beloved entertainers of all time with a loving wife and daughter and countless friends and fans. I wish I could Quantum Leap into his mind just to understand what he was feeling and thinking but we will never know. I certainly will not be angry or resentful. It’s just sad. I’m sorry that, for whatever reason, he felt this was necessary.
For me, I know I’ve had very dark times in my life when I sort of wished maybe I wouldn’t wake up, but those times are like faded memories for me. Things that I know, intellectually, occurred but yet can’t really feel or understand now that I don’t feel like that. For some people, that’s how they feel about being happy. It feels like a distant memory. Maybe an unattainable dream.
If you take anything away from this, let it be this: no matter who you are, nothing and no one will ever be better without you. Removing yourself from this life will not improve anything or anyone’s life. Your absence will be felt in deeper and farther reaching ways than you will ever know, and yes, that’s a shame that none of us will ever know the depth of our reach and effect on this world or know just how intertwined we all are, but that’s just the way it is. Each and every day, people lose this gift of life that we are given and would give anything to keep it or have it back. And it is a gift, even if it sometimes seems a burden.
You are more important to more people than you will ever know. If you ever find yourself on that precipice, please do something. Call someone. even if it goes against everything you’re feeling in that moment. Call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).
And while it’s good that this seems to have everyone talking and thinking about important issues, I’m sure Robin would not want to be remembered in death only associated with depression and suicide. Another good thing that’s come from all this is that I’ve read so many great stories about him and got to know him better than ever through other people’s words (One of my favorite stories was from Norm Macdonald). I won’t think of him and feel somber, I will think of him and laugh and smile and remember what a kind, gentle, generous and big-hearted person he was. Thank you to all who knew him for sharing your stories and memories.
Mork from Ork, signing off. Nanu-nanu.