I admit, I was really shocked when I heard of Robin Williams’ death today. And saddened more than I thought possible. After all, I didn’t know him personally. I’m also not someone who normally follows celebrity news carefully. So I was surprised to find myself in tears over his loss. But then again, he had been an actor since I was a small child. He’d been around in movies for pretty much all of my life. Hearing about his death today felt a little bit like losing an uncle I didn’t get to see that often. In his memory, I rented and watched one of my favorite films What Dreams May Come. And I’ve been thinking about what his death means to me. And why I feel so affected. I think the key is simply to look at some of the characters he’s played over the years: Dr. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting, John Keating in Dead Poet’s Society, Chris in What Dreams May Come, Daniel in Mrs. Doubtfire, Adrian in Good Morning Vietnam, Peter Pan in Hook, Alan in Jumanji, Armand in The Birdcage, Hunter Adams in Patch Adams…The bulk of his characters were inspirational. Characters who were compassionate, often struggling with their own issues but trying to help others overcome theirs as well. Because Robin Williams was such a great actor, it was easy to believe that he was just like his characters, which makes his loss to apparent suicide seem so much more tragic. He’s supposed to overcome. He’s the guy who’s always searching for the answers and fighting the good fight. How could he have found himself no longer able to?
I posted back in June about a friend of mine who had committed suicide and how much it affected me. My disbelief now is not as great as it was then, of course, but it’s familiar. When I hear of anyone’s death from suicide I immediately think of all the wonderful things they’re missing out on. However, that’s my view and I know that and I’m thankful that it’s my default. It helps me personally when I’m struggling. But there’s a line in What Dreams May Come that seems poignant What’s true in our minds is true, whether other people know it or not. We can’t always tell what struggles people are going through, and even if we did, we may not understand them anyway. Not all of our demons are the same. But there are many people living with depression or anxiety or any other illness that becomes a daily struggle. We may not be able to see it. Robin Williams is a perfect example, a man who always seemed so full of energy and laughter on the outside. While I’m sad to hear of his battles with depression and his death today, I’m thankful we were blessed with his talent. I wish his family peace tonight.