Remembering Robin Williams

I’m a little behind on this one, not that that should surprise anyone. I needed a couple of days to figure out how I felt about Mr. Williams’s death.

That just sounds weird, doesn’t it? Mr. Williams. My stuffy conventions aside, I doubt many of us ever called him that. He was Robin Williams, or Patch Adams, or Peter Pan, or O Captain My Captain, or any of a hundred other favorite titles we loved to call him. But I suspect only restaurant servers and hotel concierges ever called him Mr. Williams with a straight face.

So Robin Williams it is, even for me.

I, like millions of others, loved Robin Williams, though I never met him. He touched our lives in ways I fear he never fully knew. His boundless energy, his frantic improv performances, his ability to play serious drama and still make it seem like laughter was just under the surface, like Coke bubbles–all these qualities made us love him, gave us no choice but to love him. Even on those rare occasions where his performance fell flat, or more often wasn’t enough to save a lousy script, we loved him.

But somehow, in the face of all that love, Robin Williams couldn’t find love for himself.

And that’s what makes his death so hard to comprehend. Suicide is inherently a cowardly act, but we knew this man as brave, always putting himself out there, never pretending to be anything but what and who he was. How many of us go through life never daring to do that? How does such a man make the choice to end himself?

It disturbs me to think Robin Williams, a man I loved, a man I thought I knew, never showed me who he really was after all. It hurts that a man who seemed so open, so authentic, was simply wearing a very convincing mask, playing a very convincing role for most of my life.

Naive? Certainly. No star of his stature could ever show us who he really is. But Robin Williams seemed to me to be more authentic, more transparent than most.

His death has sparked a wave of discussion and debate on what depression is and how it affects its victims. This is a good thing. I hope it’s more than a momentary spasm. I hope we can keep it a reasoned debate, rather than allowing it to degenerate into name-calling and dogma as so many of our discussions do these days. If his death can give us a deeper understanding of the condition he shared with so many people–well, I guess we’ll take what we can get.

Farewell, O Captain, My Captain. May you find peace.

I've been a soldier, a dreamer, a working stiff, a leader. A husband, father, example (good and otherwise), and now a survivor. I write about courage, because courage is what enables us to accomplish the impossible. If you draw breath, I love you. If you love in whatever way seems best to you and want others to love in whatever way seems best to them, I am your ally. If you believe someone is less than you because they do not love the way you do, I oppose you. If you see someone as a threat to be abused or destroyed merely because they do not look like you, or love like you, or worship like you, I am your enemy. I am a joyful and courageous man. And I stand with you who love.