The news that Robin Williams committed suicide has been absolutely devastating to me personally and, judging by the responses all over the internet, I’m not alone.
This loss is so very disturbing on so many levels.
We Lost a Friend
First, it feels like we’ve lost a friend. Many of us grew up with Robin Williams in our lives. I first saw him on Happy Days and then on Mork & Mindy and from that point forward he was part of my “TV family”. In some ways, he was there in my life with more regularity than some of my real family members.
Of course, the impressive span of his career means that my generation isn’t the only one that can lay claim on his as a fixture and friend. The generations attached to Dead Poets Society and Aladdin and Jumanji also felt a very strong and emotional connection to him.
When, as the Genie, he sung, “You ain’t never had a friend like me!”, we sort of felt like that was true in some way, or at least we hoped it was.
We Lost a Genius
I’m not sure how I got to see him on HBO as a kid but I did. I had never seen anything like his comedy special before. It was just him on a stage alone being marvelous for an hour or so. His energy, his creativity, his timing, his genius – they all amazed me even as a young teen.
He was funny on Happy Days and Mork & Mindy to be sure, but it was clear from that special that those shows were actually slowing him down. He didn’t need scripts or props or fellow actors to be staggeringly entertaining and stunningly creative. His ability to work “in the moment” was unparalleled. He was a circus, sit-com, comedy troupe, and improv squad all wrapped up into one person.
If you enjoyed comedy, you enjoyed Robin Williams. If you were a student of comedy, you revered him.
We Lost an Inspiration
I suppose the hardest part to handle regarding this loss is that Robin Williams was associated with a lot of great and inspiring films.
For whatever reason, he started playing roles where he was some wise man trying to convince others to cherish life and live it to the fullest.
Advertisers have used some of his monologues from these films to sell goods because they know there is great power in the way he delivered his many speeches.
(This ad from Apple for example features a stirring monologue from Williams.)
Even now, audio and video clips of him saying wise and wonderful things are being posted by fans from all over the world.
He was a bit of a pop culture Yoda and that’s why the fact that he committed suicide is so hard to face.
We all knew he had his demons but we thought he had dealt with them. We thought, at the very least, he loved life enough to hang on and fight for it. And now this.
It Shouldn’t Have Ended This Way
This horrible end to such a bright star has left us staggering to fathom what it all could mean.
The truth is the uproarious laughter of crowds, the adoration of multitudes of fans, and a plethora of wise and witty sayings simply can’t remove the pain that many face in this life.
There are pains that run very deep. They are extremely powerful currents but, unbelievably, they can run concealed underneath smiles and jokes and laughs.
I’ve learned as a pastor that I can never judge a book by it’s cover. Far too many times the people that seem like they have it all, or at least have it all under control, are the ones that are hurting the most.
Many of us will never do any stand-up comedy but we all know what it is to share a smile or a laugh with others while silently dying on the inside.
I wish with everything that’s in me that I could have reached out and helped this man in some way. Part of that desire comes from being a pastor and part of it just comes from being a human being, but really I think the biggest part comes from the fact that I’ve battled depression before too and I know what a cruel beast it can be.
The comedian Paul F. Tompkins wrote a great response to all this here but the relevant quote is this…
But perhaps the best tribute to him would be if we all reached out to the troubled people in our lives and let them know that we are here for them.
I couldn’t agree more.
If you’re battling with depression, please seek help. You are not alone. God loves you more than you can possibly imagine. Don’t allow the bullying and myopic nature of depression to rob you of all that God wants to do in your life. He has good plans for you. You must hang on. You must reach out to Him and others for help.
Thanks for all the laughs and everything else you gave us, Robin. You will be sorely missed.