The death of Robin Williams today hit me hard. Such an iconic figure. And yes, part of it was that I often got the, “You look like that actor, what’s his name….”. Some of it is that he is 63, and I am 61. Another contemporary laid low.
But most of it has to do with his on-screen personality and comedic skill. I didn’t see much of his Mork material, but saw several of his movies: Aladdin (how DID he talk that fast?); Dead Poet’s Society (“my captain, my captain”); Good Will Hunting; What Dreams May Come; Good Morning Vietnam; Patch Adams.
I always wished I could unhinge my brain from my tongue like he could – or maybe it was the ability to establish a direct connection between them, bypassing the inner judge/critic/editor. My two years as an improv theater student drove home my difficulties in overcoming the power of those inner blocks.
My memories of other shocking deaths of good and skilled people too young to die come to mind: JFK, MLK Jr, RFK, John Lennon (I heard about his death late one night as I was driving home during my first parish in rural Oregon), and on and on. Shows my age – these are the first names that come to mind. Then there were several parishioners and relatives whose deaths due to illness or accident knocked the breath out of my body.
Robin ended his own life, something that brings deep sadness to family and friends, and in this case, to a world-wide circle of admirers. As always, we will probably never know all the reasons for this act of desperation and hopelessness. We are left pondering the vagaries of the human situation that enable some to live long and happy lives, while others struggle mightily, and sometimes unsuccessfully, to overcome their inner woundedness.
I am still breathless from the blow, and no doubt I’ll wake up tomorrow and remember and feel the unreality of it. My hope is that the God of life and resurrection takes each of us as we are, walks with us through this life whether we recognize that Presence or not, receives our dust back at the end, and heals us into the beings we were always meant to become but could not do so in this short span of years.
May it be so for Robin, and for each of us.