I heard the news just about 15 minutes ago.
Robin Williams, the man who made me laugh since I was just a young boy, has died.
It’s not his death that is saddening to me. We all must die, paying the price for being born and having this wonderful experience of Being human. No, what saddened me is how he died. It all seems so contrary to how he lived, and how he made me feel when I was fortunate enough to experience him.
He made me laugh. Not just chuckling types of laughter, but gut-splitting, tear-producing, deep types of laughter.
The type of laughter that heals, the type of laughter that casts away the clouds and reminds us that life isn’t so bad after all.
It wasn’t just the laughter that made Robin Williams special in my life.
I remember first seeing Mork when I was 11 years old. It was my first real exposure to comedy, at least the type of comedy I remember. The phrase “nanu, nanu” became part of our vernacular, and I tried to get more than one egg to “fly and be free!”
My childhood wasn’t exactly the best going, but Mork always made me laugh and always gave me something to look forward to right up to my freshman year of high school.
Then, through the various roles Williams would play (I still say “Good Morning Vietnam” with gusto some mornings) he took on one that would become my favorite, that of Dr. Sean Macguire in Good Will Hunting. I love that movie, but not just because it delves into my favorite subject, psychology,
but also because it took a man I considered one of the funniest alive and made him deep. It showed that people who could make anyone laugh could also come from a depth few had seen. In fact, it kind of made me believe that that funniest among us are the deepest, and that what they may see when diving to those depths would scare them so much that jokes would be their only salvation. I could see it in Williams’ eyes as he spoke his scripted words of wisdom in Hunting, the most poignant to me at this time being,
You’ll have bad times, but it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you haven’t paid attention to.
These words would ring true for me in many dark moments, and gave me patience to see them through. They are a truth, a truth that must have escaped Williams even for a moment as he made what appears to be his final decision that this experience must end.
We owe each other a debt of gratitude, we can learn so much through others. I learned how to laugh hard through the wonderful work of a man I’ll never meet, and I will learn something in the death of that same man. His death hurts because if someone who is so full of humor can do something so damaging to himself and those he loves, what chance do the rest of us have? It hurts because it reminds me of my own dark moments, and the fickleness of human emotion itself. One moment we can be laughing, and the next sad beyond all reason. One moment we can cherish life, the next want to run from it.
As the news comes out and we learn more about this tragedy, let’s try to look out for ourselves and our brethren a bit more. If you are, or know someone who is, depressed or having thoughts of self-injury, call a resource that will help like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or one of the many local, state or private crisis prevention organizations. Always be ready to help, even if from a distance.
“You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” ~ Robin Williams
I’d like to close this article with some Robin Williams quotes I love.
Hopefully, though, we won’t close the discussion on the greatest challenge we truly face in health care, mental health. In the meantime, maybe find a smile cross your lips or a laugh escape your lips as you read them. There, were may find the joy we need to hold on to that spark, to grasp life hard, or to remind us of what we value so much about being here.
“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” ~ Robin Williams
“Reality is just a crutch for people who can’t cope with drugs.” ~ Robin Williams
“What’s right is what’s left if you do everything else wrong.” ~ Robin Williams
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: via Tom Grosso