I wasn’t going to add my voice to the millions across the world mourning the loss of Robin Williams. I know it will get lost in the noise and the virtual tsunami of outpourings remembering this great man. But after a week of feeling pervasive sadness, I turn again to writing down a few thoughts and putting out my thanks to the man who was the absolute embodiment of my childhood.
His suicide also hit home closer for me than I could have anticipated (as it did for many), having lost a friend to suicide just a few weeks ago. We weren’t particularly close, but we lived together for almost a year. She had always suffered severely from depression. None of her therapies or drug regimens seemed to help for long, if at all. I never understood it. I tried to be as sympathetic as I could be, but I was young and this was my first up-close and prolonged encounter with real depression (I say real, I mean clinical. Bi-polar. Deep, real, physiological depression. Not just a really bad bout of the sads).
She was waiting for me once as I came home after a particularly long day at the lab. She had a massive plastic container in her hands. It contained all her medication. She looked like she had been crying all day. She asked me to keep her medication locked up in my room for the night, because “she didn’t feel well”. I was tired and while I was concerned about her, I was also worried. At that time, I saw it as attention seeking. She looked disappointed when I agreed but didn’t really react more than taking the box from her. Looking back now, I still don’t know if I honestly thought she would have through with it that night, or if I was just trying to be nice in what felt like an incredibly awkward and unusual situation. All I know for sure is that I didn’t understand it then. I lived with her, I saw her struggle but I was too young to appreciate what was going on. I still don’t, but I’m more sympathetic. I know more about depression and the disease it really is.
I know the Academy’s tribute tweet to Robin was criticised by a suicide prevention group and I understand why. But knowing my friend and how hard she tried to be free in other ways and how she could never shake the iron grip her depression had on her, I can’t not agree with the spirit of the sentiment. She’s free now, form the pain and darkness and the hardship that her life had become. Coming to realise this in the light of Robin Williams’ passing has helped me say goodbye to her and be more appreciative for my own health, family and happiness.
As for Robin; I don’t have to say much about him that hasn’t been said already. YouTube is overrun with tribute videos, produced by movie houses, TV networks and even just thousands of fans posting their thoughts and self-made video tributes to him. The recurring theme being that not only was he a brilliant actor, but a loving, passionate and beautiful human being, despite his illness.
One of the seemingly more forgotten movies in his vast and impressive repertoire was Jack, the story of the child who grows up four times faster. Towards the end of the movie, Jack delivers his valedictorian speech, and in it the most appropriate and heartfelt words are uttered.
A fitting tribute, not only to Robin but to all that have been lost to us, by whichever means.
“In the end, none of us have very long on this earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky, and the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness turning night into day, make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular.”
Thank you, Robin.