Heroes of 2014 Honorable Mention: Robin Williams

He was always a hero to me. Until the moment I learned the manner of his death.

Goals Status:

  • Marathon: On Track. I ran my first race of the year, the Get Your Rear In Gear 5K, yesterday in Fort Worth.
  • Two Square Yards of Earth: Making Progress. I’m a page or less from finishing Chapter 4. I hope to make time to finish it today.
  • 100 Posts: On Track. This is my 22nd post for the year.

It would never occur to me to deny the impact Robin Williams’s work had on my life. From his manic and masterful roles in Good Morning, Vietnam and Patch Adams to his gentle, but never truly quiet, mentors in Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting, he showed me there are ways to be a man that have nothing to do with fighting with fists or guns. I could wish for more men like him, but that would be to deny his uniqueness. There will never be another Robin Williams.

So when I learned we had lost him last August, I felt almost as if a favorite uncle had died. And when I learned he had killed himself, I felt disbelief–surely this man could not have ended his own life! My disbelief quickly turned to anguish as I accepted that one of my heroes had, in fact, taken his own life. And that led to confusion: could a man who killed himself still be a hero? Could I acknowledge him for his amazing work without making suicide heroic?

My questions had no answers. But as time passed, I learned a little bit about depression and how it affects one’s brain, about the excruciating nature of the daily struggle just to stay alive, and it occurred to me that maybe some suicides are expressions of exhaustion rather than cowardice.

That seems to have been the case with Mr. Williams. I can’t condone suicide. I can’t name him a Hero of 2014. But I can acknowledge the work of his life, and I can appreciate that by his death I learned a little bit more about depression and mental health. And that counts for something.

Oh Captain, My Captain–thank you for giving yourself to us. I think you taught us more than you knew.

Farewell, Mr. Williams. 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.